Snapshots of Despair and Resiliency in Puerto Rico

Over a week ago, Hurricane Maria made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in Puerto Rico. Maria was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico since 1928. Only a week before, Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane, skirted past Puerto Rico lashing it with rain and wind, and leaving millions without power. The situation is now nothing short of dire.  PBS has a good list of places to donate.

From the LA Times:

The scale of the devastation is mind-boggling. The main island of Puerto Rico is about 500 square miles smaller than Los Angeles County, and about a third of the population. At this moment, relatively few of those people have sufficient shelter, access to potable water, or food, or even the ability to travel to find supplies. One mayor warned that “hysteria is beginning to spread.”

People are stranded in high-rises, and few have power for air conditioning to counter the tropical heat and humidity. Those relying on medicines that must be refrigerated (about 14% of the islanders suffer from diabetes; insulin must be refrigerated to maintain its potency) or treatment systems requiring electricity are particularly vulnerable. Local officials report there are still parts of the island from which they have not received damage and casualty reports.

From The Washington Post:

But the scope of the devastation is so broad, and the relief effort so concentrated in San Juan, that many people from outside the capital say they have received little to no help.

“Nothing, nothing, nothing,” said 58-year-old retiree Angel Luis Rodriguez. “I’ve lost everything, and no one has shown up to see if anyone lives here.”

From The New York Times:

For the sick and the elderly, heat can be deadly. Without sufficient power, X-ray machines, CT scans, and machines for cardiac catheterization do not function, and generators are not powerful enough to make them work. Only one in five operating rooms is functioning. Diesel is hard to find. And with a shortage of fresh water, another concern looms: a possible public health crisis because of unsanitary conditions.

The potential for a public health crisis is a big concern, he said. Rats and decomposing animals can spread disease, the doctor added. Without running water, people are probably not washing their hands or boiling water often enough, or cooking their food well enough. This could lead to gastrointestinal outbreaks.

“This is like in war: You work with what you have,” said Dr. Carlos Gómez-Marcial, the emergency room director.

Revenge of the Mold

The Atlantic has a great article about the dangers lurking in mold; something people recovering from Hurricane Harvey will have to contend with for years:

“Submerging a city means introducing a new ecosystem of fungal growth that will change the health of the population in ways we are only beginning to understand. The same infrastructure and geography that have kept this water from dissipating created a uniquely prolonged period for fungal overgrowth to take hold, which can mean health effects that will bear out over years and lifetimes.

The documented dangers of excessive mold exposure are many. Guidelines issued by the World Health Organization note that living or working amid mold is associated with respiratory symptoms, allergies, asthma and immunological reactions. The document cites a wide array of “inflammatory and toxic responses after exposure to microorganisms isolated from damp buildings, including their spores, metabolites, and components,” as well as evidence that mold exposure can increase risks of rare conditions like hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic alveolitis and chronic sinusitis.”