The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Are Recovering Very Differently From Hurricane Maria

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Nearly four months after Hurricanes Irma and Maria battered the U.S. Virgin Islands and caused 90 percent of residents to lose power, officials told The New York Times that nearly all customers have regained access to electricity—despite the fact that roughly 10,000 people live in homes too damaged to immediately hook back up to the power grid.

And though the power restoration process has slowly progressed, hospitals across St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John that sustained significant physical damage are still evacuating critical patients.


The Category 5 storms destroyed thousands of homes, forcing nearly 11,000 families to apply for disaster assistance (a huge number, since the islands are home to only about 102,000 people). In November, Gov. Kenneth Mapp asked Congress for $7.5 billion in disaster relief to ameliorate the storms’ economic damage.

In Puerto Rico, meanwhile, the situation is much more dire. Forty percent of residents still don’t have power, and officials have estimated that electricity won’t be fully restored until May, a staggering eight months after Irma and Maria made landfall.