Hurricane Maria Live Updates: Structural Damage at Dam Prompts Evacuations in Puerto Rico
A dam in northwestern Puerto Rico suffered structural damage on Friday, the governor said at a news conference, prompting evacuations of areas nearby in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
“Close to 70,000 is the estimate of people that could be affected in the case of a collapse,” the governor, Ricardo Rosselló, said about the Guajataca Dam, which is operated by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. “We don’t know the details. It’s time to get people out.”
A flash flood warning was previously issued by the National Weather Service for the municipalities of Isabela and Quebradillas. “This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation,” the service said in an advisory.
Messages sent to the power authority about the condition of the dam were not immediately returned.
The National Guard has been activated in the area, the governor said.
“Its been hard to see infrastructure deteriorate in Puerto Rico,” he said, “but it has been harder to meet citizens who have lost it all.”
According to the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Guajataca Dam is an earthen structure, 120 feet high and nearly 1,000 feet long. It was built in the mid-1920s by the Army Corps of Engineers, but is now owned by the power authority.
It lies across the Guajataca River, forming a reservoir that can hold about 11 billion gallons of water that is used for drinking, irrigation and power generation.
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Aid is being sent to Puerto Rico.
Officials in Puerto Rico were corralling incoming aid as rescue and recovery efforts continued after the storm, Mr. Rosselló said on MSNBC on Friday.
“There’s still some rain and, of course, the soils are saturated, so it’s still not safe to go outside,” he said. “We’re still on emergency protocol and our main objective right now is making sure people are safe.”
Mr. Rosselló said that the island was getting generators, mattresses, food and water from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and from others in the private sector.
Officials have established a logistics center, which will receive all incoming aid and then distribute it to 12 zones throughout the island, he said.
“The people of Puerto Rico are really being tremendous under these circumstances,” he said.
Some elderly residents had been found in rural areas without food and necessary medication, Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, said on CNN on Friday.
“My biggest fear is that we don’t get to those that need it,” she said. “If we get to an elderly home too late, the situation of care will be disastrous.”
The Dominican Republic appears to have been spared the storm’s full force.
Early reports indicated there was minimal damage to the country. In a statement late Thursday, the Ministry of Tourism said that the tourism industry was not directly impacted by the hurricane. The industry fuels a large portion of the economy. So far in 2017, at least five million tourists have visited the country.
“In the north, the situation is under control despite intermittent rains and moderate winds that have caused some trees to fall,” said Julio Almonte, vice minister of tourism for the Dominican Republic’s northern zone. “We have toured the area and can report that the hotel infrastructure has not suffered any damage and that electricity and water services are working.”
Punta Cana, La Romana and Samaná El Catey airports reopened on Thursday evening.
“So far, no significant damage is reported in the country’s tourist destinations,” said Joel Santos, president of the National Hotel and Tourism Association of the Dominican Republic. “There are cleaning and gardening crews operating to repair some of the things that wind and rain have affected, but fortunately there is nothing that the current protocols and established procedures have not helped us deal with.”