Adrian Florido

Updated at 9:25 p.m. ET

Puerto Rico's governor updated the island's official death toll for victims of Hurricane Maria on Tuesday, hours after independent researchers from George Washington University released a study estimating the hurricane caused 2,975 deaths in the six months following the storm.

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The leadership of Puerto Rico's troubled electric utility — PREPA — crumbled on Thursday, as a majority of its board of directors, including its newly named CEO, resigned rather than submit to demands by the island's governor that the new CEO's salary be reduced.

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Luis Vázquez walked up to the elegant marble plaza in front of Puerto Rico's capitol building, bent over, and took off his shoes. He placed them among more than 400 other pairs that over several hours on Friday began forming a growing memorial to the hundreds, possibly thousands of people believed to have died as a direct or indirect result of Hurricane Maria, but whom Puerto Rico's government has yet to count.

Vázquez said his father was one of them.

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All right, let's get some reaction now from Puerto Rico, which is where we find our colleague, NPR's Adrian Florido. Hey, Adrian.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

For more than a week, Puerto Rico's representative in Congress has been urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency to extend the contract under which mainland power crews have been helping repair the island's power grid.

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Updated 5:58 p.m. ET

The last of the federal government's power restoration crews are scheduled to leave Puerto Rico when their contract expires next week, leaving the island's power utility with the task of energizing the last 1.5 percent of customers still waiting eight months after Hurricane Maria.

But on Wednesday, the island's representative in Congress asked the federal government not to send its crews home.

As Puerto Rico continues its recovery from Hurricane Maria, officials on the island are preparing for billions of dollars in federal reconstruction aid that will begin flowing in the coming months.

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One tree was all it took. Around 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, a wayward trunk tumbled over onto a major transmission line in Puerto Rico's still-fragile electrical grid and cut power to roughly 840,000 customers, affecting more than half of the island's population.

For months, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello has been struggling to get the U.S. Treasury to release $4.7 billion in disaster recovery loans that the U.S. Congress approved in October, weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island commonwealth. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had delayed releasing the loans because of disagreement over the terms of repayment.

On Thursday, the two men said they had reached a deal to allow the funds to start flowing.

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Julia Keleher, Puerto Rico's education secretary, stood in front of a school library full of high school students and asked them to do something students in Puerto Rico's public schools aren't often asked.

"Take out your phones," she said. "Look up the definition of charter school."

A girl's hand shot up.

"A charter school," the girl read, "is a school that receives government funding but operates independently of the established state school system in which it is located."

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Updated 12:46 p.m. ET

A spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Wednesday that the agency's plan to end its distribution of emergency food and water in Puerto Rico and turn that responsibility over to the Puerto Rican government would not take effect on Jan. 31.

In the days after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, residents of some of the hardest hit rural areas found themselves stranded — cut off from more populated areas by mudslides, crumbled roads and bridges, and toppled trees and power lines. In those early days, the only food and water many of these communities received arrived by helicopter, sent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has asked the Justice Department to investigate the island's public electric utility after federal agents said they found large quantities of critical rebuilding materials stored in a warehouse owned by the public company.


Valery Pozo still gets angry thinking about it. It was about a decade ago, and the immigrant communities in her hometown, Salt Lake City, were on edge because of recent immigration enforcement raids in the area. Pozo's mother, an immigrant from Peru, was on the sidelines at her son's soccer game when another parent asked whether she was "illegal."

"To me, that was clearly a racist question and a racist assumption," Pozo recalled.

But her mother saw it as a harmless comment, despite Pozo's best efforts to convince her that it was something bigger.

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As the water rose on their first-floor apartment, Rosa Sosa and her family fled to a vacant unit on the second floor. They watched in horror as it continued to rise, as it swallowed most of the cars in the parking lot that rings their sprawling two-story complex, as it stuck around, stubbornly, even after the rain stopped.

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