Puerto Rico to waive rent payments for public housing as 10,000 remain in shelters

Ten days after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory’s governor approved a moratorium on rent payments for those living in public housing as residents struggle to recover from the devastating storm, while 95 percent of customers there and in the U.S. Virgin Islands are still without power.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said at a joint press conference Saturday with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that the moratorium will stay in effect until January. An estimated 10,000 people remain in shelters, he said.

Rossello also announced the moratorium in Spanish on Twitter.

Maria made landfall as a major Category 4 hurricane in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, killing at least 16 people, knocking out power, decimating infrastructure and drowning the island’s agriculture. Residents at the time were still recovering from the powerful Hurricane Irma two weeks earlier that had unleashed heavy rain and high winds.

The back-to-back storms also pummeled the U.S. Virgin Islands, another American territory. As of Saturday morning, 95 percent of customers are without power, while 45 percent of customers now have access to safe drinking water in both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

In Puerto Rico, the highest priority now is to restore the island’s communications and power grid, the governor said.

As of Saturday morning, just over half of Puerto Rico’s gas stations had reopened, and Rossello said additional fuel will be arriving throughout next week.

Meanwhile, 51 of 69 hospitals are now open, with most running on diesel-powered generators.

Authorities have reestablished radio communication in San Juan and some surrounding areas. All landlines were working again as of Saturday morning after dozens of antennas were lifted to get telephone service up again, the governor said.

In Old San Juan, signs that the capital city’s historic district is slowly coming back to life began to emerge…

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