Puerto Rico is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis in the wake of Hurricane Maria, and as often occurs with natural disasters, people in need of immediate medical care are among the most vulnerable.
Maria knocked out much of the island’s power, affecting hospitals that rely on electricity to keep patients alive. According to a FEMA update from Tuesday morning, 58 of the island’s 69 hospitals lack power and fuel. In some areas, electricity is not expected to be restored for months.
The generators and diesel fuel that hospitals are using in the meantime are stretched thin and in short supply. Reuters reported that, at one hospital, fuel is being delivered by armed guards to prevent looting. Without power and running water, both ordinary people and medical facilities can’t do tasks as simple as keeping medications refrigerated or sanitizing equipment.
The mayor of San Juan said two people on life support died Monday because their hospital ran out of fuel, according to CBS’s David Begnaud.
Jose Sanchez Gonzalez, the mayor of a town called Manati, said Sunday that “the hospital is about to collapse. It’s at capacity. We need someone to help us immediately.”
A doctor at Canovanas Medical Center told CNN that it only had two to three days left of medical supplies. There are few gas stations operating, so nurses and doctors are having trouble reaching work.