When it struck the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico six days ago, Hurricane Maria was the strongest storm to hit the American territories in 80 years. “Its force and fury stripped every tree of not just the leaves, but also the bark, leaving a rich agricultural region looking like the result of a postapocalyptic drought,” according to one New York Times dispatchfrom Puerto Rico. In its wake, more than 3 million Americans now live without electricity or adequate food or water, and under the specter of looting and disorder. Some 80 percent of island’s agriculture has been destroyed, decimating a source of food as well as a chunk of Puerto Rico’s economy. Ninety-five percent of cellphone towers on Puerto Rico are out, depriving locals of a way to ask for help—and crippling any government response, too. The situation will likely worsen as emergency supplies run out and as the local government finds itself unable to deliver support or maintain order across such a wrecked landscape.
Read the full op-ed in The National Interest.