The United Nations has taken a strong stand against the United States on its handling of the situation that arose from the onslaught of Hurricane Maria. In the opinion of the group of 11 United Nations independent experts, the efforts that the US had taken to mitigate the sufferings of the people of Puerto Rico left a lot to be desired.

The hurricane had struck the island with wind speeds of more than 150mph five weeks back, but the response of the US has left a lot to be desired. It was not on par with the support that was extended to storm-struck states on the mainland that faced similar devastation.

The ground realities

New York Times reports that Ms. Farha, an independent expert reporting to the United Nations, has revealed that even now there is confusion on the number of people rendered homeless by Hurricane Maria. The number of houses destroyed in the disaster in Puerto Rico is also vague and could be anything from 30,000 to 90,000. Obviously, such disparity affects proper planning for reconstruction.

Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA is the agency responsible for arranging relief work. It responded swiftly to the requirements of Texas, but the response to Puerto Rico was apparently not assigned the necessary priority. As of now, healthcare facilities are affected with only a few of the hospitals functioning.

Drinking water is also at a premium because the available supplies were contaminated. These reflect a step-motherly attitude on the part of the United States towards the island.

It seems a large number of engineers were sent to attend to the needs of Texas and Florida to restore electricity after the grids suffered damages. However, that did not happen in the case of Puerto Rico where electricity is still not available.

Officials have justified the delays in deploying utility crews to an island saying it was easier to deploy them on the mainland rather than on an island.

Rebuilding the power grid

Hurricane Maria has destroyed the electric supply in Puerto Rico by uprooting the poles. It is, therefore, necessary to rebuild the grid on priority for which a $300 million contract has been given to a comparatively small Montana company.

However, the contract has landed in a controversy because it was awarded to a two-man company from Montana which is reported to have links to a high ranking official in Puerto Rico. An investigation has been ordered into the allegations, and there are rumors that FBI could also get involved.

The grid is of a very old vintage requiring extensive rework for upgrading. The authorities could have utilized this opportunity to switch over from conventional methods and introduce solar energy. That would not only meet the power needs of the island but would also prevent recurrence of a helpless situation in the absence of power.