In the year following one of the worst natural disasters to hit Puerto Rico, an estimated 200,000 people have left the island. It’s also estimated that the category 4 storm caused $100 billion in damage. The exodus of Puerto Ricans post-Hurricane Maria is chronicled in a newly-released CBS News short documentary by correspondent David Begnaud.
“Puerto Rico: The exodus after Hurricane Maria” follows local resident Damarys Perales and her 10-year-old daughter, Alahia, as they prepare to leave the island, as well as a family that has chosen to stay but went 10 months without power. Begnaud, who was in Puerto Rico when the storm made landfall and has been covering the recovery all year, also interviews Puerto Rico’s governor Ricardo Roselló, and visits the island’s forensic department.
“I’ve been reporting on the devastation caused by Maria for the past year, my team and I have returned repeatedly, and while there are some glimmers of hope and progress amid the shuttered businesses and abandoned homes, government agencies at every level are still struggling,” said Begnaud during the documentary.
In August, the death toll, which was reported by the government as 64 for several months, climbed to an estimated 2,975, which has not come as a surprise given the lack of resources and slow response. During the documentary, Begnaud speaks with Monica Melendez, Interim Director at the Institute of Forensic Sciences in Puerto Rico, about the backlog of bodies existing at the morgue.
“After the hurricane, we’re receiving about 25 cases more than we’re normally used to per week,” Melendez says, which comes to 100 additional cases per month since Maria hit. Melendez also shares that she continues losing staff to the mainland, making the job even more challenging.
The powerful short doc provides answers, but raises a few new questions. What will happen to those who’ve emigrated to the mainland? How will the migration further impact Puerto Rico’s economy? And, ultimately, will it be statehood, commonwealth or independence for the island?
Watch the full documentary, below.