July 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture named several Puerto Rico municipalities natural disaster areas on Wednesday, giving them access to emergency loans to make up for losses of crops and livestock as a result of the recent drought.
The drought is another blow to Puerto Rico as it struggles to restructure $72 billion in debt.
The USDA declared municipalities located southeast of the capital, San Juan, as disaster area. It also named other areas, including some of the island’s suburbs, as disaster areas.
Caguas, Gurabo, Juncos and San Lorenzo, the primary disaster areas, have suffered the worst period of drought in Puerto Rico in recent months, according to a statement from Pedro Pierluisi, the island’s resident commissioner, citing the U.S. Drought Monitor.
“Puerto Rico is facing severe drought conditions, and our farmers need all the help they can get,” Pierluisi said.
According to the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA)’s website, the island has suffered from at least three months without significant rain, causing reservoir levels to fall and leading the authority to tell people to save water.
In early May, the U.S. Drought Monitor said some of the island’s municipalities were under moderate drought, according to PRASA. Around this time, PRASA began rationing water in some areas of the island.
Farmers and ranchers in these areas can now access support from the federal Farm Service Agency, including emergency loans to make up for losses in crops and livestock, according to the statement from Pierluisi. (Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli; Additional reporting by a contributor in San Juan; Editing by Leslie Adler)