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Restoring full power to Puerto Rico ‘could take a year’

As the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico remains without power after Hurricane Maria pummeled it earlier this week, authorities are worried that an 88-year-old dam that was swollen with more than a foot of rain might flood the homes of 70,000 people living below it. For more on the dire situation, Jessica Ríos Viner reporter with the newspaper El Nuevo Día, joins Hari Sreenivasan via Skype.

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    For more on the dire situation in Puerto Rico, I'm joined via Skype by Jessica Rios Viner, a reporter with the newspaper "El Nuevo Dia." She's in Guaynabo, 10 miles south of San Juan.

    What's it been like for the past 24, 48 hours? You're in a place that has power. Your newspaper offices, but just describe the scene.


    OK, well, right now, I'm in the metropolitan area. That's where most of the communication is flowing. We're very– it's very, very hard to reach the people that are around the coast of the island and on the mountains.

    We have a generator here, but we're having trouble with the connections. Some of the communication towers fell, and there's almost no communication to the island. There have been many areas where the mayors haven't been able to go to see how they are because the streets are blocked with lamp posts, electric posts, just branches, trees.


    So, how significant is the flooding that you've been able to see, given that you're expecting even more rain over the weekend?

  • VINER:

    Yes, well, we have areas that had to be completely evacuated. We have a problem with the dam at Guajataca that's about to break, and all that area is going to be flooded.


    The citizens preparing for a long slog through this. I mean, given that we've seen report after report saying it could be a very long time before power is restored throughout the island, you're already in economic straits. You don't have the infrastructure to be able to clear the trees and mobilize government resources.

  • VINER:

    I don't think anyone was prepared for this. I mean, I — there's just — there are areas where they're saying it could take a year because they have to rebuild everything, that it could take a year to get some power. Water, we had no water on the whole island, but now, they just said 20 percent, 25 percent are getting their water back because they put the dams on generators.


    You know, I realize this is home for you, this is home for 3.5 million Americans, but at this point, are people trying to figure out how to move their lives somewhere else, perhaps to the mainland?

  • VINER:

    There are people that are considering, you know, moving. But there's also — I mean, you know there's always the bad thing, people that are robbing stuff, but there's also a unity in the community where people are helping each other, you know, clear the streets, you know, people lending phones so that other people can communicate with their family members.


    All right. Jessica Rios Viner, a difficult job, a reporter with the newspaper "El Nuevo Dia" — thanks so much for joining us.

  • VINER:

    Thank you for having me.

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