Natural Disasters Of The 21St Century: Hurricane Maria

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The world is changing fast due to climate changes such as droughts worsening, hurricanes becoming stronger with a longer duration period, rainfall is now heavier and more frequent, and temperatures are rising resulting in extensive damage to economic health, life and property in affected areas. Natural disasters have made the 21st century an unforgettable one. It began in December of 2004, when an earthquake occurred followed by a Tsunami near Indonesia. The epicenter was under the Indian Ocean in earth, which aggressively shook the ocean resulting into vicious waves that were meters high causing more than 150,000 deaths and millions missing. In August 2005, the southeastern area of the United States faced one of the deadliest hurricanes in the century caused by Hurricane Katrina. This hurricane struck Florida, hit the cities of Mississippi: Biloxi and Gulfport, and caused the most damage to New Orleans.

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Roughly 1833 people were died followed by floods and caused more than 100 billion dollars in property damage. This century inaugurated a record earthquake period, causing severe damages throughout the Caribbean as well as the Chinese regions. In 2005, the world witnessed the disturbing impacts of a major earthquake in the Kashmir region. This disaster claimed over hundreds of thousands of deaths, more than 70,000 injuries and about 4 million people became homeless. Another major disaster occurred on January of 2010 in Haiti. This became the deadliest earthquake causing 220,000 casualties. These extreme events go to show that when severe weather collides with civilization, the results are deadly and expensive. Given the devastating loses of the 21st century, it would be at least a small relief to consider this century an anomaly unlikely to be repeated.

However, it seems as though the number of natural disaster events continue to rise, as do the social and economic cost, which brings me to discuss the worst natural catastrophe on record to affect Puerto Rico. Recorded history has shown that Puerto Rico has been the eye path of more than 50 tropical storms concluding that this island is by far no stranger to such severe events; up till now, this is the worst this island has ever seen. A Puerto Rican even described Hurricane Maria “as an atomic bomb”, concluding that Hurricane Maria may have been a force of nature, but the disasters itself was largely man-made. Some of you may know that 2017 was the costliest year on record for natural disasters in the United States, totaling 312 billion dollars due to droughts, six major hurricanes and wildfires. Amongst those six major hurricanes in 2017, Maria was the third costliest storm in U. S. history. This storm damaged or destroyed more a little a half million homes, left over two million people without power, caused approximately 100 billion dollars in damage, and over 2,500 deaths. Where is Puerto Rico now? Damages. It has been a year since Hurricane Maria “swept away” this Caribbean island. Even though cruise ships are docking on schedule and the airport is still crowded, Puerto Rico has not recovered.

Quite frankly, it is undoubtedly close to collapse as it has ever been. With a government struggling through bankruptcy, being recently hit by Hurricane Irma and the island weakened infrastructure; Puerto Rico may never be on their feet again. Hurricane Maria brought irate winds; storm surges, and endured flooding on this island. According to the National Hurricane Center Tropical Cyclone Report, “…marinas and harbors were severely damaged due to the combination of the waves and currents associated with the surge. A storm surge also caused significant damage over the northwestern coastal area of Puerto Rico” the report goes on to say, “…numerous trees were downed, splintered and/or defoliated. River flooding was unprecedented in some areas, especially in the northern portion of the island. The La Plata River flooded the entire alluvial valley including the municipality of Toa Baja, where hundreds of families needed to be rescued from their roof tops”(Pasch et al. ,2018,p. 7).

The storm also completely destroyed Puerto Rico’s power grid, 80 percent of the island’s agriculture were shredded, communications networks were disabled, and thousands of homes suffered varying degrees of damage. Recovery Efforts. Within a week of the Hurricane Maria disaster, some might say recovery efforts were more complex due to Puerto Rico’s location; President Trump was apart of that group. I read on whitehouse. gov that the President of the United States mentioned “Its very tough because it’s an island”, he goes on to compare the recovery efforts due to Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria stating, In Texas, we can ship the trucks right out there, you know, we’ve got A-pluses on Texas and Florida and we will also on Puerto Rico, but the difference is this is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean, and it’s a big ocean. ” San Juan mayor, Carmen Cruz, in return felt that the federal response to Hurricane Maria was inadequate and slow. Cruz also criticized the US response during a news conference stating, “We are dying and you are killing us with the inefficiency”. I find that slow response from the US Even after a year, thousands of residents from this island are still recovering from the storm, paradoxically when hurricane season has begun to start this year. Federal disaster coordinators point to the billions of dollars in disaster relief funds and knowledge that has spread through the island, helping to patch thousands of roofs, reopen businesses and restore power to all corners of the island.

Even with this expertise and funds, it seems like the hurricane just hit yesterday. Without a doubt, Puerto Rico access to clean water has improved and the power has been restored, but the people are still convalescing from the obliteration and distress of Hurricane Maria. While larger cities such as Ponce and San Juan have seen a quicker response to resurgence, places like Punta Santiago that received the most impact of the storm have not. To call recovery uneven and uncertain doesn’t begin to capture the true state of things on this island. This patchy rate of recovery for residents in Punta Santiago is appalling due to less federal funding and international focus

15 April 2020

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