SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said on Sunday that the Guajataca dam in the northwestern part of the island is showing signs of possible “collapse” due to the excess water contained in its reservoir after the passage of Hurricane Maria, which dumped at least 15 inches of rain in the area.
At a press conference, Rossello re-emphasized to the approximately 70,000 people living near the dam that the government issued a mandatory evacuation order last Friday and that the area has been declared an emergency zone.
He noted that the Toa Vaca dam in southern Puerto Rico is also being closely monitored because of the high water level in its associated reservoir.
However, Rossello emphasized that no evacuation of Ponce, Villalba and Juana Diaz – cities that could be affected if there is any failure of the dam – has been ordered yet.
On Friday, the Guajataca dam, built in 1920, began to give way due to the huge volume of water dumped into its reservoir by Maria, which passed over the island on Wednesday.
The Aqueduct and Sewer Authority has been carefully monitoring the dam after detecting a crack in it, whereupon the island’s government ordered the evacuation of the nearby zones of Isabela and Quebradilla.
The National Guard is assisting in the evacuation.
Rossello also confirmed on Sunday that President Donald Trump will visit Puerto Rico in the near future to view storm damage, although no date for the trip has been set by the White House as yet. An advance team from the White House had been due to arrive last Friday to help plan the trip, which had been tentatively scheduled after Hurricane Irma, but that was delayed by damage to infrastructure and communications difficulties on the island by Maria.
Meanwhile, the Arecibo radiotelescope on the island, one of the largest such instruments in the world at 305 meters in diameter, was not damaged during Maria’s passage, although the observatory installations did suffer some damage, according to a report by the Universities Space Research Association on Sunday.
A 29-meter-high antenna at the site was partially broken due to falling debris, and other auxiliary equipment – including a receiver – were slightly damaged by Maria’s powerful winds.