This story was originally published by HuffPost and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
The asthma attack that killed Anibal Dones Torres came in the inky darkness of night.
Hours after he and his family went to bed on February 9, 2018, the 54-year-old awoke gasping for air. He had suffered from asthma since childhood, and his nebulizer was always nearby. But Hurricane María destroyed Puerto Rico’s electrical grid just five months earlier, leaving his home in the eastern mountain town of San Lorenzo with no power.
“He told me, ‘My God, help me,’” his sister, Ramonita Dones, recalled on a sunny afternoon earlier this year. “You could see how desperate he was.”
By the time the family got their generator running and fitted the breathing machine to his mouth, Anibal’s lungs were so constricted the oxygen wasn’t working. The outage weakened cell phone signals, too, and calls to 911 kept dropping. When the ambulance finally came, it was too late.
Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the state-owned power monopoly, has awarded $4.4 billion in contracts to companies hired to repair the extensive damage to the island’s aging e... Read more