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Extreme weather case study: Puerto Rico.

Photo of el Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico. Green trees with a blue sea in the background and grey clouds above.
Photo of el Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico by Beau Horyza on Unsplash

Hurricane Maria; the worst natural disaster in history for Puerto Rico.

Bankrupt since 2017 and heavily burdened with debt, migration, and poverty since 2006, Puerto Rico was left exposed to the elements when Wall Street took advantage of Puerto Rico’s unstable financial position and its investments used to pay domestic bills during a major financial crisis.

In September 2017, Hurricane Maria slammed the island with 155-mph winds and coastal flooding that rose to 6 feet within 30 minutes of landfall. The storm caused the longest power blackout in U.S. history.

At least 40% of Puerto Ricans reported losing a job in the storm’s aftermath and almost all agricultural production was destroyed. $780million of farming was lost in one day. Physical landmarks of communities were obliterated, and houses, schools and shops were, and still remain flattened.

Puerto Rico is now in so much debt as a result of debt accumulation and natural disaster that the equivalent of $34,000 per person is owed. Most fear for their safety from further destruction by natural disaster, famine and disease. Many men take advantage of women and transgender people forced to live in dangerous environments, where the continuing lack of electricity plunges Puerto Ricans into darkness after nightfall, leading to increased reports of attacks and physical abuse in communities with little or no support available for help.

What's happened since?

Despite the US Congress promising $42.7 billion in relief funds, most has failed to materialise, leaving less than $20 billion with which the Puerto Rican’s can try to rebuild their lives.

The Anglican Diocese of Puerto Rico have tried to help, offering:

Episcopal Relief & Development, playing a variety of roles, providing technical support and initial funds for food and water, massive generator to keep the diocesan offices up and running and food distribution alongside medical teams from the Hospital Episcopal San Lucas who volunteered in rural areas in the months following the storm.

The diocese would play an enormous role in the emergency response on the island, serving close to 100,000 families and 300,000 people with food packets, hygiene kits and medical care from teams of doctors reaching out from the diocesan-owned Hospital Episcopal San Lucas in Ponce, on the southern coast.

How does this link to COP26?

COP26 is a moment of opportunity and of decision. We can choose to respond to the call of climate justice. We can choose to raise our voices alongside our brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering disproportionately due to climate injustice. We can choose to mark this moment of COP26 by holding our government accountable to delivering and exceeding the promised $100bn/year in climate finance.

Our sisters and our brothers in churches around the world are losing their livelihoods and homes, and we will stand with them. Climate-vulnerable countries must be able to access finance for adaptation and loss and damages without incurring further climate-related debt.

In years to come, we want the UK church to look back on 2021 and say “we did not sit at home while unjust decisions were made on our doorstep, we set sail towards a just future”.

One of the aims of this relay is to foreground frontline voices; that is to say, those who are suffering the most due to climate injustice and financial climate inequality. If you have a story about extreme weather events, or climate injustice, please get in touch with us at

Want to join us as we #RiseToTheMoment? Sign up to our Relay to COP26 as we take as stand against climate injustice.

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