Governor blames 'colonialism' for US's poor Puerto Rico hurricane response

Homeland Security personnel delivers supplies to Santa Ana community residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Guayama Puerto Rico Oct. 5 2017

Carlos Giusti AP FILE

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Yasmin Morales was among the Puerto Ricans on the island who were marking the anniversary of Hurricane Maria on Thursday.

Last month, the U.S. Commonwealth's government sharply raised the official estimate of Maria's death toll to nearly 3,000 after an independent study.

FILE - A man takes one of his 10 a day asthma treatments to help him breathe, inside his home still covered with a tarp a year after Hurricane Maria, in Naranjito, Puerto Rico, Sept. 9, 2018. Puerto Rico's official death toll is 2,975, based on a monthslong study by George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health.

"You worry, because you think it's going to fly off like it did before", she said.

Tarps still covered many homes that have yet to be rebuilt in the town of 37,000, even as the nostalgic strains of "Amanecer Borincano" - "Puerto Rican Dawn" - resonated at the spot where Maria first unleashed its fury.

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Virtually the entire town is flooded and inaccessible except by boat, just two years after it was flooded by Hurricane Matthew . The National Hurricane Center said it was monitoring four areas in the Atlantic for signs of a new tropical weather threat.

Make The Road Pennsylvania organized the vigil to recognize Hurricane Maria's landfall on the USA territory as well as to decry what many in attendance said was an unacceptable response by the US government. "Before, during, and after the two massive hurricanes, the President directed the entire Administration to provide unprecedented support to Puerto Rico".

"He simply is unable to grasp the human suffering that his neglect and lack of sensibility have caused us", said Cruz.

Cruz-Torres added those in the coastal areas, fishermen in particular, were among the hardest hit because of the gear and boats they lost.

On Thursday, Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, announced in San Juan that $1.5 billion was being released to Puerto Rico as part of the overall $20 billion pledged for rebuilding, the largest in the agency's history.

"And why, when Katrina struck, did they pay 100 percent of the emergency work and they did not extend this to Puerto Rico?"

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And as American disaster relief efforts turn their focus to the Carolinas and the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, Puerto Ricans have stopped holding their breath waiting for Trump's self-aggrandized success to actually materialize, while continuing to band together in efforts to rebuild the island, by whatever means possible.

For Carson, the disbursement of HUD funds "paves the way for a speedy, long-term recovery", but he warned that the "path forward is challenging, and will be measured not in months, but rather in years".

To the day, there are billions of dollars in damage, some are still without power, and almost 3,000 people have died from Hurricane Maria.

Like many, Rodriguez hoped that after Thursday, she would no longer be bombarded by photos and videos that make her feel like she's reliving Hurricane Maria.

"It's too much", she said.

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