Puerto Rico is still hobbled by Hurricane Fiona with many without power or water: NPR RS News

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Getting into the community of cocoa is a challenge. Route 157 is closed after large landslides caused by Hurricane Fiona blocked access.

Gabriella N. Baez for NPR


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Gabriella N. Baez for NPR


Getting into the community of cocoa is a challenge. Route 157 is closed after large landslides caused by Hurricane Fiona blocked access.

Gabriella N. Baez for NPR

Orocovis, Puerto Rico – Hundreds of thousands of people across Puerto Rico are still waiting for water and power to be restored after Hurricane Fiona. Fiona was only a Category 1 hurricane when it hit. But it moved slowly and dropped more than 30 inches of rain on some areas, and the flooding washed away roads, isolating some mountain communities.

In the city of Orocovis, a mudslide blocked a major roadway, making it difficult for residents to get food, water and other necessities. A local construction company quickly got to work, removing tons of soil, vegetation and boulders that blocked the road. By Thursday, a single lane was closed, allowing several trucks with food, water and fuel to reach the city.

People in Orocovis line up to receive food and other supplies that are handed out by members of the National Guard and the Department of Family of Puerto Rico.

Gabriella N. Baez for NPR


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Other roads in the area collapsed when the ground beneath them washed away. In Cacao, a small community of scattered homes in the mountains, hundreds of people were stranded when the road connecting them with Orocovis collapsed. Local authorities investigated the damage, declared it unsafe and closed the road. But residents soon convinced them to open a temporary road so they can at least get into Orokovis.

Orocovis residents line up at the community sports coliseum. People like Jesus “Tito” Colon use any type of container – gallon jugs, cisterns – to fill with potable water.

Gabriella N. Baez for NPR


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Gabriella N. Baez for NPR


Orocovis residents line up at the community sports coliseum. People like Jesus “Tito” Colon use any type of container – gallon jugs, cisterns – to fill with potable water.

Gabriella N. Baez for NPR

Herbert Acosta, a civil engineer was part of the crew working Thursday to stabilize the road. “Right now, we’re putting up barriers on both sides to make it safe,” he said. But he is concerned that more rain could bring more flooding and lead to a complete road collapse. “We will monitor it every day,” he said, “to see how it is.”

Worsening the isolation, Orocovis is one of many communities in Puerto Rico still waiting for power and water to be restored. In the community’s small sports stadium, people have been in line to fill kegs, barrels and cisterns with clean water pumped from tank trucks. Residents say it’s a familiar routine. After Hurricane Maria in 2017, some were without water service for six months.

The Department of Family of Puerto Rico and the National Guard distribute food at an intersection in the community of Orocovis.

Gabriella N. Baez for NPR


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Gabriella N. Baez for NPR


The Department of Family of Puerto Rico and the National Guard distribute food at an intersection in the community of Orocovis.

Gabriella N. Baez for NPR

Puerto Rico’s National Guard has been to isolated communities, distributing food and other supplies to residents who are having trouble getting into town. Corporal Alexis Cruz said, “We’re just trying to spread a little happiness in the midst of all the chaos.”

The Puerto Rico Water Authority says service has been restored to more than two-thirds of its customers. The island’s power company says about 40% of its customers now have electricity. But in Orocovis, residents are skeptical about assurances from the governor and other leaders that power and water service will be restored soon. As he waited for water in the sports stadium, Marcelino Cassiano repeated an often heard refrain, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Four days after Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico, it is still moving slowly through many parts of the island. First responders drive carefully through state route 155 that runs from Coamo to Vega Baja through Orocovis and Morovis which is now cleared after landslides blocked access.

Gabriella N. Baez for NPR


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Gabriella N. Baez for NPR


Four days after Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico, it is still moving slowly through many parts of the island. First responders drive carefully through state route 155 that runs from Coamo to Vega Baja through Orocovis and Morovis which is now cleared after landslides blocked access.

Gabriella N. Baez for NPR

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