Puerto Rico

Back-to-back natural disasters in Mexico and across the Caribbean have left millions of people reeling.

Updated at 2:45 a.m. ET Thursday

Hurricane Maria has damaged Puerto Rico's power infrastructure in ways that, in a worst-case scenario, could take months to repair, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told CNN late Wednesday.

"Our telecommunications system is partially down," he said. "Our energy infrastructure is completely down."

National Hurricane Center

There is dangerous déjà vu in the Caribbean right now as Hurricane Maria begins tearing across the islands – just two weeks after Hurricane Irma did. And the residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are girding for an especially hard hit on Wednesday.

Updated at 5:30 a.m. ET Wednesday

Even though Maria has weakened to a Category 4 storm, it remains a dangerous hurricane. Maria's maximum sustained winds are near 155 mph. The National Hurricane Center says the storm should keep that intensity until it makes landfall. Puerto Rico has long been spared from a direct hit by a hurricane.

Updated at 2:20 a.m. ET Wednesday

Updated at 5:30 a.m. ET

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Maria is an extremely dangerous storm. It was a Category 5 storm when it hit the island of Dominica. Later it was downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane. But a short time ago, forecasters says Maria had regained the strength of a Category 5 hurricane.

Updated at 3:15 a.m. ET Tuesday

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NOAA/Reuters

Puerto Ricans and residents of the US Virgin Islands are struggling to pick up the pieces following Hurricane Irma’s pummeling of the Caribbean — and Hurricane Jose is knocking on their door.

Updated at 5:00 a.m. ET Friday

The National Hurricane Center says Irma is now a Category 4 storm. It has maximum sustained winds of 155 mph.

Updated at 11 p.m. ET

Hurricane Irma continued its northwestward sweep Thursday evening, losing little steam as it skirted the Dominican Republic and Haiti and bearing the full force of its 165-mph winds down upon the southeastern Bahamas and away from the Turks and Caicos islands. Forecasters upgraded their alert for South Florida to a warning.

Updated at 6:20 p.m. ET

By all accounts, Hurricane Irma is a behemoth, a "potentially catastrophic" storm bearing 185-mph winds and the threat of devastation for the islands caught in its northwesterly course toward Florida. That threat packed an added wallop Wednesday for Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory already reeling from billions in debt.

Updated at 11:20 p.m. ET

The governors of Florida and Puerto Rico have declared pre-emptive states of emergency ahead of Hurricane Irma, a powerful Category 4 storm churning through the Caribbean on a westward track. The U.S. Virgin Islands also declared a state of emergency.

Forecasters say the dangerous storm also looks increasingly likely to hit the U.S. East Coast, either in South Florida or the Carolinas.

"We have established protocols for the safety of all," Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said, urging islanders to take precautions.

NASA/NOAA via AP

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Workers in the northeast Caribbean cleared drains and pruned trees as authorities urged islanders to prepare for Hurricane Irma, a Category 3 storm that grew stronger Monday and was forecast to begin buffeting the region the following day.

Carlos Giusti / AP via Miami Herald

Puerto Ricans want to become America’s 51st state. But right now it's doubtful America – at least President Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress – feels the same way.

In a non-binding referendum on Sunday in the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, 97 percent of those who voted chose statehood over the two other options: remaining a U.S. territory or becoming an independent country.

Carlos Giusti / AP via Miami Herald

Puerto Rico held a referendum Sunday on whether to remain a U.S. commonwealth, be independent – or become the 51st U.S. state. Those Puerto Ricans who voted gave statehood a big victory, but it’s not as big a win as it first looks, largely because turnout was far lower than anticipated.

More than 97 percent of Puerto Ricans who cast ballots in the non-binding plebiscite chose statehood. Now they take the issue to the U.S. Congress, which has the final say on whether U.S. territories like Puerto Rico become states.

Carlos Giusti / AP via Miami Herald

Ricardo Rosselló became Governor of Puerto Rico in January at the age of just 37 – and he inherited a disaster.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET

For years, Puerto Rico has grappled with an ever-mounting debt crisis, watching as its public-sector bills have grown to more than $70 billion. Including what the U.S. territory owes to pension funds, that debt exceeds $120 billion.

Now, Puerto Rico's struggle with its creditors has stepped into U.S. federal court, where an unprecedented debt-restructuring case opened with a hearing Wednesday.

Puerto Rico has asked for a form of bankruptcy protection to help it grapple with more than $70 billion in public-sector debt. The unprecedented maneuver, requested by the governor and filed shortly afterward by a federal oversight board, sets in motion what would likely be the largest municipal debt restructuring in U.S. history.

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