NPR

Irma Portends New Woes For Debt-Stricken Puerto Rico

The U.S. territory filed to restructure billions in debt earlier this year. Those economic straits threaten to hobble the island's ability to cope with the effects of the Category 5 hurricane.
Seawater rises with the approach of Hurricane Irma, which threatened to overwhelm a jetty in Puerto Rico on Tuesday. The U.S. territory of some 3.4 million people has struggled to pay its debts ? even filing earlier this year for a procedure similar to bankruptcy, and a natural catastrophe could compound that fiscal pain. / RICARDO ARDUENGO / Getty Images

By all accounts, Hurricane Irma is a behemoth, a "potentially catastrophic" storm bearing 185-mph winds and the threat of devastation for the islands caught in its northwesterly course toward Florida. That threat packed an added wallop Wednesday for Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory already reeling from billions in debt.

Between public-sector bills and pension fund obligations, Puerto Rico owes. The debt is a behemoth in its own right, so unmanageable the territory had to file for a crafted specifically for it by Congress.

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