Maria set Puerto Rico back decades - official

by

September 25, 2017
Trees are reflected in the water in the Buena Vista community in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico yesterday. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP):

Puerto Rico's non-voting representative in the US Congress said Sunday that Hurricane Maria's destruction has set the island back decades, even as authorities worked to assess the extent of the damage.

"The devastation in Puerto Rico has set us back nearly 20 to 30 years," said Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez. "I can't deny that the Puerto Rico of now is different from that of a week ago. The destruction of properties, of flattened structures, of families without homes, of debris everywhere. The island's greenery is gone."

Engineers on Sunday planned to inspect the roughly 90-year-old Guajataca Dam, which holds back a reservoir covering about two square miles (five square kilometres) in northwest Puerto Rico. The government said it suffered a large crack after Maria dumped 15 inches (nearly 40 centimetres) of rain on the surrounding mountains and that it "will collapse at any minute". Nearby residents had been evacuated, but began returning to their homes Saturday after a spillway eased pressure on the dam.

Puerto Rico's National Guard diverted an oil tanker that broke free and threatened to crash into the southeast coast, said Governor Ricardo Rossello, and officials still have not had communication with nine of 78 municipalities.

"This is a major disaster," he said. "We've had extensive damage. This is going to take some time."