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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Canóvanas mayor: Island not fully prepared for the next major hurricane

Canóvanas Mayor Lornna Soto Villanueva

By John McPhaul

At an educational event on hurricane season readiness that drew more than 3,000 residents on Sunday, Canóvanas Mayor Lornna Soto Villanueva clarified that “Puerto Rico is prepared to confront a hurricane with the resources we have available, but we are not completely ready yet.”

Soto distributed educational material and first response equipment to residents of the northeastern municipality before the Atlantic hurricane season begins on Wednesday.

“To be ready we need PRASA [the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority] to repair 100 percent of the water pumps and make them dependent on solar energy. To be ready, LUMA [Energy] should have replaced 100 percent of the power lines and poles,” Soto said. “Even more so, [the island Department of] Natural [and Environmental] Resources should have granted us all the final permits to be able to clean all the rivers or causeways that we have within our region or that this state entity has not dredged.” The mayor added that telecommunications antennas must be improved and better protected to prevent cell phone signals from being lost.

“To be ready, FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] must have established a new methodology for the current bureaucratic and often redundant and unnecessary processes,” Soto said. “There is still a long way to go to be ready to face a hurricane like Maria. My municipality was the third most affected then and my people suffered a lot.”

The mayor noted that “hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged the island in 2017, and it is now that we see that allocations from FEMA are flowing with some movement.”

“This is why in the next few days I am going to the United States to meet with senior leaders of federal agencies to present my demands,” she said. “In fact, it was because of this scenario that the Mayors Federation had to create, along with [La Fortaleza] Chief of Staff Noelia García, a work and follow-up committee to accelerate the reconstruction processes that are still pending.”

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