(Reuters) - Hurricane Maria has devastated the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, another blow to its already precarious economic situation.
Puerto Rico’s government owes $72 billion to bondholders, and an additional $50 billion in pension obligations to teachers and almost all other government employees. In May, it filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.
The following are responses from multinational companies on how they are dealing with the aftermath of Maria:
WAL-MART STORES INC
Phillip Keene, Wal-Mart’s director of corporate communications, said, “Like many businesses, we are working to assess any damage to our facilities as we are safely able to access them and working to connect with our associates to assess what their needs are so we can support as appropriate. We are planning to open facilities very thoughtfully, starting with limited hours at our Sam’s Club near San Juan, perhaps as soon as Sunday. One of our Amigo stores has already reopened under limited hours on the south side of San Juan as of this morning.
“Walmart operates 48 retail facilities, a distribution center and a satellite headquarters in Puerto Rico, supported by more than 14,700 associates across the Island. At this time, we are trying to best understand the impacts of Hurricane Maria to Puerto Rico, but it’s been a slow process due to widespread power outages and communication issues. We have activated the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at the Walmart Home Office in Bentonville, Arkansas, to support our associates in Puerto Rico. The EOC is Walmart’s centralized platform for crisis coordination. In the EOC, we work directly with logistics, store operations and other teams within the business to ensure we’re aligned on our support plans.
“We have been in contact with leaders on the Island and continue to be in regular contact with FEMA and the American Red Cross. Our first priority is, and continues to be, the safety of our associates - taking care of them and their families. We are working rapidly to account for our associates, through store and HR leadership as well as social media, local radio and other channels. These efforts will continue.
“Although our normal assessment process has been impeded a bit by road conditions and flooding, we are currently working to identify the status of our facilities on the Island. Our Merchandising, Replenishment, Supply Chain and Logistics teams are working to ensure we have critical supplies and product headed to the island via shipping vessels that are slated to depart as soon as Friday (Sept. 22). This is in addition to the shipment of water that was sent toward the island earlier this week, which is currently staged at sea awaiting clearance to safely enter port. We will continue to assess the right flow and mix of merchandise and supplies to send to Puerto Rico in the coming days and weeks.”
Tammy Hull, communications manager at Eli Lilly, said: “Lilly has two manufacturing sites in Puerto Rico as well as an affiliate office and sales team. Safety of our employees is our primary concern. The small team of employees who stayed onsite during the storm are safe. We are still accounting for all employees, which is a slow process due to power and communications loss on the island. We are currently assessing our facilities to determine if any damage occurred. Lilly follows emergency procedures that enable us to maintain adequate inventory at our manufacturing sites around the world to ensure a reliable supply of medicine for patients.”
Kristen Davis, senior manager of corporate communications at Amgen, said: “Our first priority is the safety of our colleagues and their families. The vast majority of staff at our Amgen Manufacturing Limited (AML) site in Juncos were sent home prior to Maria making landfall, with only a limited number of colleagues remaining on site to monitor operations. At the moment, we are still working to determine the safety of our people and are hopeful that all will be well. At the same time, we are executing on a comprehensive and well-rehearsed business continuity plan for the site itself. Based on what we know at the moment, we are confident there will be no product supply disruptions for patients around the world. Of course, we will work diligently to ensure drug supply for patients in Puerto Rico and to return our operations in Puerto Rico to normal as quickly as possible.”
Michele Meixell, head of external communications and affairs at AstraZeneca, said: “Given the early nature of the disaster, we are still in the process of gathering more information, but I can tell you what we know so far. Our Puerto Rico employee base consists of approximately 250 colleagues. This represents both field-based employees as well as those working in our manufacturing facility located in Canovanas.
“Right now our number one priority remains the safety and health of our employees and their families. At this point, it’s still early to understand the full impact to our site, but we have started the process to assess our facility. The site does have backup power capabilities and we have a storm crew in limited operation right now until employees are able to safely return to work. In advance of the storm, the facility took appropriate precautions and we have business continuity plans in place to ensure our medicines continue in production.
“We do not anticipate interruption in supply at this time. I also want to point out that while our Puerto Rico site is of critical importance to our organization, we have manufacturing facilities all over the globe producing medicines, so in terms of overall business impact, this is important to clarify.
“Regarding the safety of our employees, all non-essential employees had been sent home prior to the storm earlier this week. This is a critical time for our employees to be safe and with their families and we will stay in touch with them in various ways that work best for them in this time of need. We stand behind those impacted by Hurricane Maria and AstraZeneca is committed to helping the people and employees affected by all of these recent natural disasters. We will continue to assess the needs of both our employees and those impacted by the storm and once we have more clarity on their needs, provide support and aid however we can.”
Pfizer spokeswoman Joan Campion said, “We’re continuing to assess the situation in Puerto Rico.”
Reporting by Bill Berkrot, Trevor Hunnicutt and Richa Naidu; compiled by Jennifer Ablan; editing by Jonathan Oatis