Gov. Ricardo Rosselló offered an update in the wake of the side-wipe Hurricane Irma gave Puerto Rico Wednesday, confirming progress in the recovery of services and utilities.
He also announced a temporary elimination of the collection of the 11.5 percent Sales Tax and Use on prepared foods from through Sunday.
“Puerto Rican families will get all of the government’s help to meet the challenges left by the atmospheric event. Many people have to buy prepared food in the absence of certain services such as water and energy. It is fair to give them financial relief so they can provide food in their homes,” said the governor.
During an afternoon news conference, Rosselló said the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority had already restored power to 144,000 customers during Thursday, pushing the number of clients with service to 37 percent.
Meanwhile, the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority was able to connect water service to 55,000 customers to reduce the universe of customers without service to 341,514 or 27 percent. The agency also announced the availability of 60 oasis trucks available in various regions of the island.
“The people of Puerto Rico should thank the thousands of public servants who have left their families in their homes to work tirelessly and re-establish our services after Hurricane Irma. They have shown that we are prepared and Puerto Rico stands stronger than ever,” said the governor, who has received praise for how he and his administration have managed the emergency situation pre- and post-hurricane.
The Puerto Rico Ports Authority reported that ports in the South — Guayama, Guanica, Guayanilla, Ponce, Mayagüez and Yabucoa — opened their bays and resumed their regular services Thursday.
As soon as the Coast Guard gives the go-ahead, the ports of San Juan, Vieques and Culebra should also resume operations, he said.
It was also reported that regional airports are under appropriate conditions for regular functions. JetBlue international flights at the airports in Ponce and Aguadilla resumed Thursday, as reported by the airline. Meanwhile, Spirit Airlines will resume flights to the island on Sept. 12.
Rosselló also said that to facilitate the arrival of emergency supplies for the island’s most affected areas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency moved its airport operations from Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla to the José Aponte de la Torre Airport in Ceiba.
Puerto Rico’s eastern flank — Fajardo, Vieques and Culebra — were among the hardest-hit by Hurricane Irma’s Category 5 winds and rain. FEMA will also help other islands in the Caribbean that were pummeled by the hurricane.
Meanwhile, the Convention Center District Authority reported that its facilities suffered no significant damage and are operational. This includes the Puerto Rico Convention Center, Bahía Urbana, the Antiguo Casino and the Puerto Rico Coliseum.
However, events scheduled for this week at those locations were suspended and rescheduled, as per a decision by their respective producers. Events slated for next week will be held as they are booked.
Rosselló visits hard-hit northeastern towns
During the day, Rosselló visited the northeastern part of the island, where he inspected the municipalities of Carolina, Loíza, and Canóvanas with FEMA staff to assess damage caused by Hurricane Irma.
Rosselló visited the Isla Verde Beach where, together with the Carolina Mayor José Aponte-Dalmau, they inspected the damages, including significant erosion and destruction of the beach and its facilities. The mayor noted the lifeguard towers were toppled and the water park was also affected.
“The mayors are the ones who will make the damage estimates. This task facilitates the work of the central government and FEMA to declare where the disaster areas are and to put into effect the protocols to provide resources to the population, individuals, and infrastructure in general,” Rosselló said.
Rosselló also visited Canóvanas and Loíza during the day.