Things That Matter

Tropical Storm Dorian Could Hit Puerto Rico And People On The Island Aren’t Taking Any Chances

The Atlantic Hurricane season has been off to a slow start in 2019 and residents of Puerto Rico couldn’t be more thankful. After a devastating season in 2017, which included Hurricane Maria, the island is still in crisis mode trying to rebuild.

Many island residents are still without 24/7 access to electricity while many others are still living in makeshift homes or buildings without proper roofing.

So news that a powerful tropical storm, which could strengthen into a hurricane, has many boricuas on edge.

Another menacing storm is on track to slam the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, an island still grappling with the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Tropical Storm Dorian is strengthening as it moves westward towards the Caribbean, and could reach hurricane strength by early Thursday, possibly before hitting Puerto Rico.

As of Monday morning, Dorian is considered a “small tropical cyclone.” It’s just over 130 miles from Barbados, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph. It’s moving at approximately 14 mph towards the Windward Islands, which are expected to face tropical storm conditions later Monday. 

Tropical storm watches and warnings are in effect for the area, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

The storm system has intensified as it churns towards several Caribbean islands.

“Hurricane watches and tropical storm watches and warnings have been issued for parts of the Leeward and Windward Islands, where Dorian is expected move through on Tuesday morning,” meteorologist Dave Hennen said.

“The storm is still forecast to be a hurricane as it approaches Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic on Wednesday and Thursday.”

By the end of the week, what’s left of Dorian is expected to move toward the Bahamas and possibly southeastern parts of the mainland US. 

“But it is still way too early to forecast impacts,” Hennen said.

The storm is forecast to hit the Lesser Antilles as a strong tropical storm.

Tropical storm warnings have also been issued for Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Tropical storm watches have been issued for Dominica, Martinique and Grenada and its dependencies. A hurricane watch has been issued for St. Lucia.

The NHC also issued a warning for mariners, swimmers and surfers, saying that swells triggered by the storm around the Lesser Antilles could cause “life-threatening surf and rip current conditions” by late Monday.

It’s too early to tell for certain whether Dorian will hit Puerto Rico or other islands further west, and how strong of a storm it might be when and if it does. But the NHC says it’s monitoring the storm closely and “watches could be required later today.”

It was just under two years ago that Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria,which led to the deaths of close to 3,000 people.

The island remains in crisis almost two years after Hurricane Maria, the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, killed almost 3,000 people in September 2017.

Puerto Rico’s power grid, which was destroyed, remains severely compromised, and with its electric utility more than $9 billion in debt, the island’s new governor earlier this month suspended a $450,000 contractthat was to have been part of the rebuilding program.

Dorian’s arrival also comes as Puerto Rico is suffering from what is perhaps the worst political crisis in its history. 

Governor Ricardo Rosselló resigned late last month amid historic demonstrations after hundreds of offensive chats between him and his top advisers were published, some of which made light of the deaths from Maria. 

And since then, the island has seen two more governors. Many are asking with all this distraction will the island be prepare for a potentially life-threatening storm. 

Puerto Ricans aren’t taking any chance with many already stocking up on supplies.

After the devastation that rocked the island after Hurricane Maria, many residents suffer from PTSD. Many are taking zero chances with this storm and have stormed local supermarkets to stock up on water, foods, batteries, and other important supplies. 

Hacker Attempts To Steal $4 Million From Puerto Rican Government In Phishing Scam

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Hacker Attempts To Steal $4 Million From Puerto Rican Government In Phishing Scam

John Piekos / Flickr

Hackers attempted to steal $4 million from the Puerto Rican government using a common phishing scam. The scams referred to as business email compromises, target public and private entities every year on the U.S. mainland. Here’s what we know so far.

A hacker attempted to steal millions of dollars from the Puerto Rican government.

Credit: @DavidBegnaud / Twitter

According to reports, hackers were able to infiltrate various agencies in the Puerto Rican government through phishing emails. The hackers attempted to access $4 million dollars by targeting Puerto Rico’s Industrial Development Company and the Tourism Company.

The Industrial Development Company sent around $2.6 million while the Tourism Company wired over $1.5 million. According to the AP, the agencies received emails from a fraudulent employee claiming there was a change of bank accounts.

Federal officials say they were about to freeze the money to prevent loss to Puerto Rico.

David Begnaud of CBS News took to Twitter to update people on the latest developments. According to Begnaud’s conversation with federal authorities, the hackers had not received the money from Puerto Rico and they were able to freeze it. They are working to send the money back to Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is not the only victim in a phishing crime. During the same time as the hacking of Puerto Rico, a school district in Manor, Texas lost $2.3 million and another $800,000 were stolen from officials in Griffin, Georgia. More than 23,000 of these scams stole $1.7 billion from businesses and agencies in the U.S. mainland last year. The FBI was able to recover around $300 million.

The news is surprising people on social media.

Credit: @MilagsCon / Twitter

Corruption in Puerto Rico’s government has been a topic of discussion since Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Puerto Rico was recently devastated by a series of earthquakes while still recovering from the 2017 hurricane that devastated the island. Missing relief funds and misplaced supplies have angered Puerto Ricans in recent months as it comes to light.

This latest financial and security shortcoming of Puerto Rico’s government is not helping its reputation.

Credit: @J_Fort47 / Twitter

Puerto Ricans have been showing their displeasure with the elected officials on the island for years. Recently, Puerto Ricans protested and marched until Ricardo Rosselló resigned from his office. The former governor was caught in a group chat scandal in which he made derogatory comments about the LGBTQ+ community and women. There were also allegations of corruption and misuse of funds within his admi9nistration that led to a series of investigations.

READ: The Puerto Rico Department of Justice Is Seeking An Independent Investigation Into Ricardo Rosselló

A Warehouse Full Of Forgotten Supplies From 2017 Was Just Found In Puerto Rico After More Than 1000 Earthquakes Hit The Island

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A Warehouse Full Of Forgotten Supplies From 2017 Was Just Found In Puerto Rico After More Than 1000 Earthquakes Hit The Island

@IGD_News / Twitter

Over the past two and a half weeks, Puerto Rico has experienced more than 1000 earthquakes. This number may seem unbelievable, but it’s true: after a 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit the island on January 7—the largest earthquake to hit Puerto Rico in more than a century—aftershocks have continued to jolt the island, leaving hundreds of people homeless, lacking supplies and electricity. Among the aftershocks was January 11’s 5.9 magnitude quake, which caused even further devastation, particularly to the southern part of the island. So far, the earthquakes have cost an estimated $200 million in damages, including the destruction of more than 800 homes.

But the damage hasn’t only been structural—several people are experiencing extreme anxiety as tremors continue to strike the island.

Credit: Facebook / ASSMCA Online

Officials from ASSMCA, Puerto Rico’s  Office of Mental Health Services and Addiction Prevention, have been making their rounds at outdoor shelters where displaced individuals and families have taken refuge, offering mental health support to those most affected by the quakes.

“These aftershocks are triggers for people,” Abdiel Dumeng, an ASSMCA employee, said in Spanish in an interview.”But I have to admit that we’ve seen a decrease in these kinds of crises, because we’ve been working together for a while, teaching people how to stay calm.”

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), aftershocks will continue to decrease in frequency over the next month and will be exponentially “lower in magnitude”. But in the meantime, Puerto Rico’s Office of Emergency Management estimates that more than 8,000 people are staying in these outdoor shelters—fewer than half are in government-run shelters, while the rest are taking refuge in either informal spaces or shelters run by non-government organizations.

What exactly constitutes an “informal” shelter? Well, some folks have simply taken their beds outside, staying close to home while avoiding the potential dangers of being indoors. Others are crashing with relatives in towns that have experienced less damage than other areas.

Credit: StarTribune

In response to the 5.9 earthquake on January 11, Governor Wanda Vázquez said that she had declared a major state emergency following an initial assessment of the damages incurred. Vázquez also announced the immediate disbursement of $2 million for the towns of Guánica, Utuado, Guayanilla, Peñuelas, Ponce and Yauco, which experienced the most damage due to their proximity to the earthquakes’ epicenter. This $2 million was defined as a way to meet the towns’ most urgent needs—but now, ten days later, la gente está harta, because these needs still haven’t been met.

Just a few days ago, Vázquez fired two high-ranking officials in her administration: Housing Secretary Fernando Gil and Department of Family Secretary Glorimar Andújar. She also fired former Emergency Management Director Carlos Acevedo. The Governor’s reason for the dismissals was an alleged lack of information regarding aid collection and distribution centers.

This lack of information had to do with the discovery of a warehouse in Ponce that was filled with seemingly forgotten disaster supplies. But these supplies were not sent in response to the current crisis—they date back to when Hurricane Maria (a Category 4 storm) hit the island in September 2017.

Credit: Carlos Giusti / Associated Press

And people are understandably angry. On January 20, scores of demonstrators gathered in front of the Governor’s mansion in San Juan to demand her resignation. While the Governor seems to have tried addressing the issue with the dismissals mentioned above, several people are accusing her of not taking accountability for this appalling error, urging her to step down. And with demonstrators vowing to stay in the streets until Vázquez steps down, the current situation looks a lot like last summer’s demonstrations, which ultimately caused Governor Ricardo Rosselló to resign.

When asked by NBC News what the “human impact” of this mistake is, Rafael Gonzalez—President of PROFESA, a Puerto Rican Professional Association that delivered aid during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria—said, “We saw it on [sic] Maria. We saw what happens when you don’t deliver the supplies that people need. People die.”

Indeed, more than 3,000 people died as a result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria (not to mention highly insufficient disaster response on the part of the United States government). At this point, the recent series of earthquakes has resulted in one death and nine injuries. In an attempt to keep that number from rising, Jennifer Gonzales, Puerto Rico’s Commissioner to Congress, joined forces with five other members of Congress to send a letter to Donald Trump, asking him to sign a major disaster declaration that would bring federal funding to the recovery effort.

On January 16, Donald Trump responded by designating six hard-hit towns in the southern part of the island as major disaster areas. Hopefully this will result in an appropriate disaster response—one that will not negligently result in more forgotten aid.