Puerto Rico still faces up to $50B in recovery work as hurricane season looms
- As the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season approaches, Puerto Rico has yet to complete up to $50 billion in recovery work made necessary by last year's catastrophic Hurricane Maria, according to the Associated Press.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said it is trying to make the U.S. territory's buildings, transportation infrastructure and electric grid, much of which was severely damaged last year, as strong as possible before June 1, the official start of hurricane season, so that the country can withstand potential future storms. The agency said that necessary rebuilding supplies have been hard to come by given the demand for those materials along the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast.
- FEMA has approved more than $53 million in disaster loans and is going to spend federal money finishing major work on critical assets across Puerto Rico, but agency officials said the island's public and private sectors must also take initiative and come up with not only a sound emergency response plan but, for example, a more resilient communications system.
One of the reasons that Hurricane Maria caused such damage to Puerto Rico's homes and businesses is that much of the island's construction was undertaken without the proper permitting or adherence to building codes, according to the Miami Herald, and some structures are on land prone to flooding.
The majority of buildings constructed according to code sustained only minor damage from Maria, and Puerto Rican officials said the "informal" construction process that allowed such devastation won't be tolerated any longer. Many islanders, however, who are not able to secure federal loans or who don't want to wait years for FEMA to help them rebuild or relocate have already started to cobble together new structures, which leaves them vulnerable to future damage from winds and flooding.
As the Miami area realized after 1992's devastating Hurricane Andrew, aggressive building codes are a critical part of being able to survive major hurricanes or tropical storms.
Houston officials, after the city and surrounding areas were pummeled by Hurricane Harvey last summer, have also enacted stricter building codes in order to reduce the potential for future flooding. The Houston City Council on April 4 voted to enact new regulations that require all new structures built within the 100-year and 500-year floodplains be constructed two feet above the 500-year floodplain. The new rule, which goes into effect Sept. 1, is expected to add $11,000 to $32,000 to the costs of construction. Other Houston officials said the new regulation would add $8,000 to $10,000 to the cost of a new 1,500-square-foot home.
- Associated Press FEMA: Puerto Rico running out of time as storm season nears
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