Thousands of Puerto Ricans still in the dark, three months after Hurricane Maria


HARI SREENIVASAN: It has been 12 weeks since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. And as of today the island is only generating electricity at 65 percent capacity. A new interactive report from the Washington Post takes a close look at how the lack of electricity continues to dramatically impact life for three point four million U.S. citizens who live there. Arelis Hernández is one of the reporters on the story. She joins me now from Washington D.C.

It seems your stories are are ones of people and how they're just adapting to life when it comes to three months without power.

ARELIS HERNANDEZ: Well right. I mean this storm in and of itself was pretty catastrophic. Great. The storm was about two times as large as the island itself in landmass. But what came afterwards in terms of having to deal with the fact that you don't have power that your access to clean water is limited that everyday tasks had become far more difficult than they were pre storm. That story was continuing and it was aggravating it was one that my colleagues and I thought were is really important to tell.

HARI SREENIVASAN: One of the characters that you story out was with a schoolteacher who had gone to this very school when she was a child. What was very hard to witness is that she actually goes to class every day even though there's no students that show up.

ARELIS HERNANDEZ: Right. This happened with a lot of teachers across the island. They were ordered back to classrooms about mid October basically to check in on the condition of the classrooms and to get them ready for students. Problem was, in some places they didn't have water and you can't have kids inside of schools without water and it deeply affected this particular teacher. I mean she's absolutely the connective tissue of her particular barrio, or her neighborhood in Puerto Rico. So it really just deeply impacted her to show up to work and not have those kids there.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And this is a woman who still has to go. She literally goes to the mountainside and fetches buckets of water for how she lives on a daily basis.

ARELIS HERNANDEZ: Yeah absolutely. With some of the the mudslides and landslides are taking place in this particular mountainous community it disrupted water service. So a lot of the folks who live up in these more remote rural communities have to go to their local mountains to go get water for everything.

HARI SREENIVASAN: You also talk about kind of a gap generation where they're not so tiny that they're seeing kind of the fun and all the upside down stuff but they're also not old enough for they've dealt with how to deal with this recovery and it seems that they're in kind of different states of almost trauma.

ARELIS HERNANDEZ: Right, now we talked to several teenagers who were sort of in this weird place emotionally, where they really didn't know whether, what direction to go in. I mean some kids are figuring out but particularly for those seniors in high school who were trying to move on with their lives and have seen so many of their relatives and their neighbors also moved to the United States. It puts them in a weird place.

HARI SREENIVASAN: You also profiled a small business or a couple that run a small food truck and all of a sudden they have this additional cost of having this generator as it eats into their profits pretty deeply.

ARELIS HERNANDEZ: Their generator has been going nonstop. They have a commercial freezer at home or they keep the masa, which is like the dough that they used to make up alcapurrias which are these fried food fritters. And she's having to make all that ahead of time. Put it in a commercial freezer. Hope to God that the generator doesn't die on her. They're a beacon of normalcy for the folks of this town that we went to, Yabucoa. They are part of that community they grew up there and they realized that far more important than making a profit at this point, for them was to be there for their people.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Arelis Hernández just one of the three reporters, Whitney Leaming and Zoeann Murphy of the Washington Post who worked on this along with a lot of the other staff and laying this out. Thanks so much for joining us.


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