Life-Threatening Dam Failure in Puerto Rico
by Stephen Lendman
Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the island, knocking out power entirely, causing severe damage to homes, businesses, government and other facilities, along with vital infrastructure.
Over two dozen Caribbean fatalities were reported, unknown numbers injured and missing. Some areas remain inaccessible.
A state of emergency exists, wide areas without clean water. Flooding and mudslides threaten anyone in their paths.
Commenting on the devastation, Puerto Rican Emergency and Disaster Management Agency head Abner Gomez said “our island has been destroyed. (Maria) destroyed everything in its path” – including severe damage and flooding in San Juan, the capital.
On Friday, government spokesman Carlos Bermudez said communication with over half the island’s municipalities is lost, power lines down, cellphone towers toppled, Internet cables knocked out, roads blocked, floodwaters devastating communities.
Governor Ricardo Rossello said “(w)e haven’t seen the extent of the damage.” The storm dumped up to 40 inches of rain in some areas, 20 – 30 inches in most parts of the island.
On Saturday, after the storm passed, things got worse. The Island’s Guajataca Dam failed, causing extremely dangerous flash flooding – after an engineer discovered a breach, the first sign of failure.
The National Weather Service called the failure a “life-threatening situation.” Warnings were issued Thursday, indicating failure was certain, tens of thousands of residents in affected areas told to evacuate.
A flash flood emergency was issued for Isabella and Quebradillas municipalities, home to around 70,000 people, alerts telling them to “move to higher ground” immediately. With power out and no television or Internet access, it’s unclear how many people understood the danger.
The aging 90-year-old damn failed from Category 4, 155 MPH winds and torrential rain. Power to many areas is likely to remain out for weeks or months in many areas.
Puerto Ricans face a long, painful period of recovery, taking many months or longer to complete. Many residents lost everything – on their own to try rebuilding their lives.
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