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Puerto Rico ready to rebuild, 'still has the wherewithal to be a tourist destination': Gov. Rossello

  • Some parts of Puerto Rico have been "decimated" by Hurricane Irma, but the tourism industry remains intact, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello told CNBC.
  • The fact that the tourism infrastructure wasn't heavily damaged is good news for the economically challenged island.
  • Rossello said there are funds available for rebuilding.

Some parts of Puerto Rico have been "decimated" by Hurricane Irma, but the Caribbean island's tourism industry remains intact, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello told CNBC on Monday.

The storm's eye didn't come ashore but roared past with 185 mph winds. It knocked out power to about 70 percent of the island and killed at least three people, but the island escaped the large-scale devastation seen on nearby Barbuda and St. Martin.

"The tourism infrastructure is very robust over here. We're lucky that it was very well designed, both the ports, the airports. The hotels over here are working at full capacity," Rossello said in an interview with "Power Lunch."

"Puerto Rico still has the wherewithal to be a tourist destination."

Waves crash against the seawall as Hurricane Irma slammed across islands in the northern Caribbean on Wednesday, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico September 6, 2017.
Alvin Baez | Reuters
Waves crash against the seawall as Hurricane Irma slammed across islands in the northern Caribbean on Wednesday, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico September 6, 2017.

The fact that the tourism infrastructure wasn't heavily damaged is good news for the island, which already has about $70 billion in debt on its books and $50 billion in pension liabilities.

Funds are available for rebuilding, though, Rossello said, and the government is working quickly to fix those areas that have been heavily damaged.

There is an emergency fund in Puerto Rico, as well as President Donald Trump's emergency declaration that will help pay for storm preparations and some of the damage, he said.

"Some of the regions in Puerto Rico have already been determined to be a disaster area, so we will work with our funding, of course, but with the help of FEMA to restore balance and to rebuild again in Puerto Rico."

He said power has already been restored to over 600,000 of the 1 million customers who have been in the dark since the storm hit.

— Reuters and CNBC's Jason Gewirtz contributed to this report.