Post-Fiona fuel disruptions spark fear in Puerto Rico

Sep 22, 2022, 9:08 AM | Updated: Sep 23, 2022, 12:09 pm
Nancy Galarza looks at the damage that Hurricane Fiona inflicted on her community, which remained c...

Nancy Galarza looks at the damage that Hurricane Fiona inflicted on her community, which remained cut off four days after the Category 1 storm slammed the rural community of San Salvador in the town of Caguas, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Danica Coto)

(AP Photo/Danica Coto)

CAGUAS, Puerto Rico (AP) — A growing number of businesses, including grocery stores and gas stations, are temporarily closing across Puerto Rico as power outages caused by Hurricane Fiona drag on in the U.S. territory, sparking concern about the availability of fuel and basic goods.

Hand-written signs warning of closures have been popping up more frequently, eliciting sighs and groans from customers on an island where nearly 60% of 1.47 million clients still do not have power five days after the storm hit.

Betty Merced, a retiree who lives in the southern coastal city of Salinas, said she has spent several days looking for diesel to fill up her generator to no avail. She uses a sleep apnea machine and cannot risk going without it.

“There are a lot of people with a lot of needs,” she said. “If there is no diesel, we’re going to be very much in harm’s way.”

Merced said she would travel to the nearby town of Santa Isabel on Friday, and if she doesn’t find diesel there, she will drive more than an hour to the northern city of Caguas, where at least one convenience store had a “No gas” sign on its door Thursday evening.

“I didn’t think we were going to be so many days without power,” she said.

Gasoline also was unavailable in Salinas after all gas stations shut down Wednesday, said community leader Wanda Ríos Colorado.

“When I saw that, my stomach almost turned,” she said, adding that it gave her flashbacks of Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, resulting in nearly 3,000 deaths and sparking severe shortages of fuel, food, water and cash.

People also have struggled to get their prescriptions as some pharmacies temporarily close.

Puerto Rico’s Department of Consumer Affairs said there is no shortage of fuel, but rather a disruption to the system as a result of flooding, landslides and an island-wide power outage caused by Fiona when it slammed into Puerto Rico’s southwestern corner Sunday as a Category 1 storm.

Some fuel stations were unable to reopen or could not be refilled in the storm’s early aftermath, officials said.

Consumer Affairs Secretary Edan Rivera sought to temper concerns, saying that “there is no basis to talk about a fuel shortage in Puerto Rico.” He added that his agency also has found sufficient supplies of basic goods.

On Friday, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico activated the National Guard to help distribute diesel fuel to hospitals and supermarkets. The force is also supplying generators used to operate potable water plants and telecommunications towers.

On Thursday evening, Rivera announced that crews finally restored power to a gasoline distribution terminal in the southeastern town of Yabucoa that had been operating at a third of its capacity because it was running on a generator.

Rivera said this would speed up distribution of fuel across the island because the terminal could now operate 24 hours a day until the island recovers from the storm.

He said there is 14 days’ worth of regular gasoline, 25 for diesel and 11 for premium.

“There’s a peak in demand in the most affected areas, but it has been normalizing as trucks arrive,” he said.

Rivera added that some wholesalers have taken measures to prevent retailers from hoarding fuel.

“Some will say they have received less product, but it’s not that they’re getting less. They asked for a lot, and to err on the side of caution, they’re not being given everything they ask for,” he said.

Rivera also noted that a container ship carrying 300,000 barrels of diesel would arrive Friday and the product would be distributed starting Saturday.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s Water and Sewer Authority said that of the 956,000 customers out of 1.32 million who have had water service restored since Fiona, more than 400,000 clients have water thanks to generators that depend on diesel.

Government officials said they expected to restore power by Friday in areas that were not severely affected by the storm, although they have not said when people living in storm-ravaged areas might have electricity.

U.S. President Joe Biden pledged Thursday to help Puerto Rico recover from Fiona, saying, “We are with you, we are not going to walk away.”

He recently approved an emergency disaster declaration and a major disaster declaration, which would free up more federal assistance to those affected by the hurricane. Biden also announced 100% federal funding for debris removal, search and rescue efforts, power and water restoration and shelter and food for one month.

“We’ll do everything we can to meet the urgent needs you have,” he said. “And we know they’re real, and they’re significant.”

___

Associated Press journalist Maricarmen Rivera Sánchez contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Photo from Flickr...
Associated Press

Washington kills 2 wolves to prevent preying on cattle

Biologists working for Washington have killed two members of the Leadpoint wolf pack this week in an effort to stop the pack from preying on cattle
15 hours ago
Associated Press

Plea deal for Ex-Trump adviser accused of unwanted advances

LAS VEGAS (AP) — An ex-adviser to former President Donald Trump has taken a plea deal to resolve allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances to a GOP donor at a Las Vegas event. Corey Lewandowski entered into a plea agreement earlier this month involving a charge of misdemeanor battery, according to online Clark County […]
15 hours ago
Associated Press

Trump fraud lawsuit goes to judge who held him in contempt

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York attorney general’s lawsuit accusing Donald Trump and his company of fraud has been assigned to a state court judge who repeatedly ruled against the former president in related subpoena disputes — including holding him in contempt, fining him $110,000 and forcing him to sit for a deposition. Trump’s […]
15 hours ago
FILE - The East Atlanta Mega Site in Social Circle, Ga., is shown on Dec. 16, 2021. A Georgia judge...
Associated Press

Georgia judge nixes tax break for electric truck firm Rivian

ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia judge rejected an agreement that would have provided a huge property tax break to Rivian Automotive, clouding the upstart electric truck maker’s plans to build a plant east of Atlanta. Morgan County Superior Court Judge Brenda Trammell rejected what is normally a routine request by a local government to validate […]
15 hours ago
President Joe Biden listens as first lady Jill Biden speaks during a reception in the East Room of ...
Associated Press

Jill Biden: GOP leaders underestimate the power of women

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jill Biden told a Democratic women’s group Friday that Republicans underestimated the power of women but that, together, they will “make sure that they never make that mistake again.” The first lady said that when “extremists attack rights that a vast majority of Americans support, like a woman’s right to choose, or […]
15 hours ago
American's Andy Huynh, right, and Alex Drueke arrive at the TWA Hotel on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 in ...
Associated Press

U.S. captives ‘prayed for death’ on brutal ride from Ukraine

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Even after three months of captivity that included execution threats, physical torture, solitary confinement and food deprivation, it was the ride to freedom that nearly broke Alex Drueke, a U.S. military veteran released last week with nine other prisoners who went to help Ukraine fight off Russian invaders. His hands were […]
15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Post-Fiona fuel disruptions spark fear in Puerto Rico