The United States of America is made of 50 states. Any second-grader could tell you that.
However, that lingering fact makes it hard for many people to remember that the United States is also responsible for many territories, and two of those territories, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, desperately need our attention right now in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
The United States government needs to divert a greater amount of the hurricane relief money to these islands and needs to better prepare these islands for future hurricanes.
Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 hurricane and devastated St. Thomas and St. John, two of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Irma destroyed the majority of the buildings on the island, and the main streets of St. John saw the majority of their businesses and shops blown away.
Many residents have fled the island, and it's good that they did, as there is no water or electricity on the island, and many of the homes in the area have been destroyed. This utter devastation has made the police largely ineffective, and some individuals are looting.
In comparison, Puerto Rico suffered less damage. However, the hurricane did cut off power for the majority of the islands, killed three people and ruined countless homes. Hurricane Irma destroyed these islands, and yet we hear so little about it in the media, with the majority of the focus on Florida.
The problems that these islands face are unlikely to go away soon. St. Thomas and St. John lost the majority of their businesses, and many people are eating only military rations provided by the Marine Corps and National Guard.
These nations also rely on tourism and part-time residents for their economies to thrive. The recent destruction means that the Virgin Islands could be suffering economic consequences of their geography for much longer than this critical emergency phase.
And while attention should be placed on rescue and emergency efforts now, funding should be allocated to help these islands prepare for future hurricanes.
Puerto Rico was thankfully spared the majority of the damage that the U.S. Virgin Islands suffered. Irma revealed the infrastructural problems that could become major issues in the future. Electricity lines and clean water systems are particularly at risk because the Puerto Rico Electric Power Company declared bankruptcy in July, and 13 percent of people lost access to clean water after Irma.
More hurricanes will hit. The National Science Foundation predicted in 2008 that climate change could lead to more violent and dangerous storms as a result of rising sea temperatures and levels. The warmer ocean water can strengthen the storms.
More hurricane relief money should go to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. As U.S. territories, they deserve the protection and relief that this aid can bring them.
However, moving forward, more money needs to be spent on improving the infrastructure of these islands so that when the next Irma hits, they are better prepared for it.
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