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Dam breach complicates Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria

The storm knocked out 85% of Puerto Rico's cell phone towers, telephone lines and Internet cables
September 23, 2017 10:00AM

Damage in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria (Source: FEMA)

Officials in Puerto Rica scrambled to evacuate 70,000 people who live downstream from a broken dam as the scope of Hurricane Maria’s destruction on the island became clearer.

Authorities sent buses to move people away from the Guajataca Dam in northwest Puerto Rico after an inspection revealed a breach in the 89-year-old dam.

Anthony Reynes, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Weather Service, told Associated Press that the breach might be an early sign of a total failure of the dam.

More than 15 inches of rain fell on mountains surrounding the Guajataca Dam after Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane, raising the level of a man-made lake the dam contains.

Up to six inches of additional rainfall was expected through Saturday.

Complicating rescue and recovery efforts in Puerto Rico are widespread power outages and a hurricane-damaged communications system.

Officials said Hurricane Maria knocked out 85 percent of Puerto Rico’s cell phone towers, telephone and Internet cables.

Government spokesman Carlos Bermudez told Associated Press that 40 of the island’s 78 municipalities had no communications capacity.

Hurricane Maria caused at least six deaths in Puerto Rico, 15 in Dominica, three in Haiti, two in Guadeloupe, and one in the Dominican Republic. [Associated Press] Mike Seemuth