Puerto Rico Dam failing

Maria’s aftermath continues to be very ugly for America’s largest territory. In addition to the problems of supplying the population with food and water and repairing the electricity and communications infrastructure, they also have to worry about people being washed away when a dam crumbles:

A dam in Puerto Rico weakened by heavy rains from Hurricane Maria was in danger of failing on Sunday, posing a flood threat to thousands of homes downstream as the storm-battered U.S. island territory struggled through a fifth day with virtually no electricity.

Some 70,000 people who inhabit a river valley below the Guajataca Dam in the northwestern corner of the island have been under evacuation orders since Friday afternoon, when authorities first warned that the earthen structure was in danger of imminent collapse.

The fear of a potentially catastrophic dam break added to the pandemonium facing disaster relief authorities in the aftermath of Maria, which has claimed at least 29 lives across the Caribbean, according to officials and media reports.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello personally urged residents of the area to heed evacuation orders after surveying damage to the dam on Saturday, telling reporters that a fissure in the structure “has become a significant rupture.”

The storm caused an estimated $45 billion of damage and lost economic activity across the Caribbean, with at least $30 billion of that in Puerto Rico, said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler at Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia.