FSJ News Updates,
A growing number of businesses, including grocery stores and gas stations, are temporarily closing across Puerto Rico as power outages from Hurricane Fiona stretch into the US territory, raising concerns about the availability of fuel and essential goods.
Handwritten signs warning of the shutdown are appearing more frequently, prompting sighs and groans from customers on the island, where nearly 60% of its 1.47 million customers are still without power five days after the storm.
Betty Merced, a retiree who lives in the southern coastal city of Salinas, said she spent several days searching for diesel fuel to fill her generator without success. He uses a sleep apnea device and can’t risk going without it.
“There are many people with many needs,” she said. “If there is no diesel, we will be very much at risk.”
Merced said she will drive to the nearby town of Santa Isabel on Friday and, if she can’t find diesel there, will drive more than an hour to the northern city of Caguas, where at least one convenience store has a “No gas” sign on its door Thursday night .
“I didn’t think we’d be without power for so many days,” she said.
Gasoline was also unavailable in Salinas after all gas stations were closed Wednesday, community leader Wanda Ríos Colorado said.
“When I saw it, my stomach almost turned,” she said, adding that it brought back memories of Hurricane Maria, the Category 4 storm that hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, killing nearly 3,000 and causing severe fuel shortages and food. , water and cash.
People also struggled to find their prescriptions as some pharmacies were temporarily closed.
Puerto Rico’s Department of Consumer Affairs said there was not a fuel shortage, but rather a system disruption due to flooding, landslides and island-wide power outages caused by Fiona as it slammed into the southwest corner of Puerto Rico on Sunday as a category. 1 thunderstorm.
Some gas stations were unable to reopen or could not be refilled after the storm, officials said.
Consumer Affairs Secretary Edan Rivera sought to allay concerns, saying “there is no reason to talk about fuel shortages in Puerto Rico.” He added that his agency had also found sufficient supplies of basic goods.
On Friday, Governor Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico activated the National Guard to help distribute diesel to hospitals and supermarkets. The power also supplies generators used to run drinking water plants and telecommunications towers.
On Thursday night, Rivera announced that crews had finally restored power to a gasoline distribution terminal in the southeastern city of Yabucoa, which was operating at a third of its capacity because it was running on a generator.
Rivera said this would speed up the distribution of fuel around the island as the terminal could now operate 24 hours a day until the island recovers from the storm.
He said regular petrol costs 14 days, diesel 25 and premium 11 days.
“The most affected areas have the highest demand, but with the arrival of the trucks it will normalize,” he said.
Rivera added that some wholesalers have taken measures to prevent retailers from stockpiling fuel.
“Some will say they got less product, but it’s not like they got less. They asked for a lot and if I was wrong, they wouldn’t be getting everything they are asking for,” he said.
Rivera also noted that a container ship carrying 300,000 barrels of diesel will arrive on Friday and the product will be distributed starting Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Puerto Rico Water and Sewerage Authority said that of the 956,000 customers out of 1.32 million that have had their water service restored since Fiona, more than 400,000 clients have water thanks to diesel-dependent generators.
Government officials said they expected power to be restored by Friday in areas not severely affected by the storm, although they did not say when people living in storm-ravaged areas might have power.
US President Joe Biden on Thursday pledged to help Puerto Rico recover from Fiona, saying: “We are with you, we are not going away.
He recently approved emergency disaster declarations and major disaster declarations that would free up more federal aid to those affected by the hurricane. Biden also announced 100 percent federal funding for debris removal, search and rescue efforts, power and water restoration, and shelter and food for one month.
“We will do everything in our power to meet your urgent needs,” he said. “And we know they’re real and they’re significant.”
Associated Press reporter Maricarmen Rivera Sánchez contributed to this report.