Dangerous Flooding Imminent If Dam Collapses
Puerto Rican government launched a massive emergency evacuation operation for tens thousands of people from a river valley below a dam in the island’s northwest, adding misery to residents after the hurricane.
The Guajataca Dam, at the northern end of Lake Guajataca in the north-west, began to show signs of failing under the weight of flooding in the aftermath of hurricane Maria.
Reports say around 70,000 people in Isabela and Quebradillas evacuated to higher ground on buses. Authorities fear the dam may eventually break down, causing more devastation.
Christina Villalba, an official for the island’s emergency management agency, said there is urgency to evacuate the residents to safer ground to prevent casualties.
“It could be tonight, it could be tomorrow, it could be in the next few days, but it’s very likely it will be soon,” she said on Friday night.
The Guajataca Dam is 120 feet high and nearly 1,000 feet long and built in 1929 by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. It lies across the Guajataca River, serving as a reservoir that can hold about 11 billion gallons of water used for drinking, irrigation and power generation.
Worst Hurricane in a Century
Puerto Rico’s governor declared Maria the worst hurricane in a century as residents struggle without water, electricity, phones, and fuel. At least 13 people have died since the powerful storm ripped through the US territory. The cost of damage is massive as well. It is estimated that cost of damages would surpassed the total of Hurricane George in 1998 that battered the country.
According to Governor Ricardo Rossello, it could take months to restore electricity to all 3.4 million of the US island territory’s residents. This could mean the residents will rely on power generators for many months.
In addition, around 1,360 of Puerto Rico’s 1,600 cell phone towers were knocked out by Maria and 85% of phone and internet cables on the island.
Maria was a category three storm with maximum sustained winds of nearly 193km/h (120mph). It caused widespread destruction on the small island of Dominica when it hit on Monday night, leaving at least 15 dead and 20 missing.