Puerto Ricans Describe 'Horror In The Streets' After Hurricane Maria
September 26, 2017
Hayley Miller / The Huffington Post & Jennifer Bendery / The Huffington Post
We've heard devastating stories in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, but not nearly enough about the impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico. The US territory was slammed by the tropical storm mere days ago. As 3.4 million residents continue to scramble to safety, the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, has called for more federal aid. Many residents do not have access to water, power or roads. It's been described as "apocalyptic."
"We are doing a great job. We did a great job in Texas,
a great job in Florida, a great job in Louisiana.
We hit little pieces of Georgia and Alabama. And frankly . . .
we're doing -- amazing, tremendous, incredible, really good . . . .
We have been really treated very, very nicely by the governor [of Puerto Rico]"
-- Donald Trump
Puerto Ricans Describe
'Horror In The Streets' After Hurricane Maria
As many as 70,000 American lives are at risk
if the territory's Guajataca dam breaks
Hayley Miller / The Huffington Post
(September 25, 2017) -- We've heard devastating stories in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, but not nearly enough about the impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico.
The US territory was slammed by the tropical storm mere days ago. As 3.4 million residents continue to scramble to safety, the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, has called for more federal aid. Many residents do not have access to water, power or roads. It's been described as "apocalyptic."
At least 13 lives have been lost in the storm and there are 70,000 more at risk should a dam in the western part of the island break.
Rossello said in an appearance on CNN Monday morning that the Guajataca dam has fallen apart in a "critical infrastructure failure," adding that strenuous efforts are being made to ensure that everyone in the dam's vicinity have been evacuated. When asked if he thinks the dam will falter, Rossello said he'd "have to assume so."
"I don't have all the details. . . . My action has been to order an evacuation. I'd rather be wrong on that front than doing nothing and having it fail and costing people's lives," he said.
Rossello added that he's "made contact with all the municipalities" within Puerto Rico and has established runners "to go to those areas where we don't have telecoms or radio so that we can get information."
"We've established routes so that we can deliver food, water, diesel so that things can keep on moving. We've energized the main hospital in Puerto Rico and given fuel to alternate hospitals around the island. We've opened the ports to get more resources," he said.
Many residents have been unable to get in touch with their families outside of Puerto Rico and within, as nearly 95 percent of wireless cell service is currently out of service, according to the island's Federal Communications Commission.
New Yorker Kristin Vazquez, 25, has family in Puerto Rico and tells HuffPost she hasn't spoken to her family since the day of the hurricane.
"I'm concerned about my great-grandmother. She's 103 years old, and without the proper resources she may be in serious danger," Vazquez said. "My cousin might fly down to Puerto Rico if she doesn't hear from them."
Others, some who have also been unable to speak with their families, have been sharing their stories on social media:
My family and the rest of Puerto Rico is gonna be without power and water and everything for the next 6 months or more
5:47 PM - Sep 24, 2017 · Lowell, MA
Please talk about #PuertoRico I haven't been able to talk to my family. 3.5 million US Citizens without food, electricity nor water. #help
8:29 PM - Sep 22, 2017
From a friend in Puerto Rico: "We prepared for the worse, now we need to prepare for what we couldn't even conceive could be the worst."
6:11 AM - Sep 25, 2017
I got family without food or water in PR, people killing each other for food/water and gas, 2K for a plane ticket just to leave the island
8:17 PM - Sep 24, 2017
Organizations on the ground are working tirelessly to assess damage and help provide much-needed aid to those affected, including ConPRMetidos, a nonprofit based in San Juan focused on connecting Puerto Ricans with personal, social and economic opportunities.
Isabel Rullan, director of ConPRMetidos, told HuffPost that fallen trees, broken glass and downed power lines litter the island's streets, alongside people desperately trying to find cell phone signals.
"It looks like winter because there's no leaves on the trees," said Rullan, 29, said. "Right now, in front of my desk, I see a tree completely pulled out from the roots."
Six-hour lines have formed at some gas stations around San Juan, where people are desperate to fill up their tanks, Rullan said. Drinking water is scarce, too.
"We don't have water in the office and there are no supermarkets around us," Rullan, 29, said. "This is no joke. Someone is going to have to go get water."
Looting has also become an issue in some neighborhoods surrounding the island's capital.
"We heard about an apartment building where four people broke in," Rullan said. "People are worried . . . and just trying to be really cautious. Someone told me today that a person went into a gas station with rifles and told everyone, 'It's our turn to fill our tanks.'"
Still, Rullan said she's been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and interest from those on the US mainland reaching out to her organization in hopes of helping. "People are just so grateful to be alive,'" she said. "We're working as a community. We don't have energy or water, but we'll figure it out."
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz confirmed reports of looting. "There is horror in the streets," Cruz said in an interview with The Washington Post published Monday. "There is no electricity anywhere in Puerto Rico. People are actually becoming prisoners in their own homes."
Puerto Rico has suffered a major blow to its agricultural industry as well. More than 80 percent of the island's crops have been destroyed by the historic storm, reported The New York Times.
"There will be no food in Puerto Rico," Jose A. Rivera, a farmer in southeast Puerto Rico, told the Times. "There is no more agriculture in Puerto Rico. And there won't be any for a year or longer."
President Donald Trump pledged federal help for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, but has yet to make a comment about the effects of the hurricane on the territory.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both implored Trump to shift his attention to the dire situation in Puerto Rico:
President Trump, Sec. Mattis, and DOD should send the Navy, including the USNS Comfort, to Puerto Rico now. These are American citizens.
9:04 AM - Sep 24, 2017
It could take 6 months to restore power to 3.5 million Americans who live in Puerto Rico. #Trumpcare is not more pressing.
6:21 AM - Sep 25, 2017
ACTION: Here's How You Can Help People In Puerto Rico
3.5 million Americans are enduring "apocalyptic" conditions
right now because of Hurricane Maria
Jennifer Bendery / The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON -- At least 13 people are dead. Most people don't have water or power. There's no cell service. Roads have been totally washed away or blocked by debris. This is life right now in Puerto Rico, where 3.5 million Americans are struggling to recover from the devastation of last week's Hurricane Maria.
Local officials described the scene as "apocalyptic" on Sunday. And just two weeks earlier, Hurricane Irma blew through and caused as much as $1 billion in damages to the island.
A lot of mainland Americans don't realize that Puerto Ricans are Americans. FEMA has been providing lifesaving resources to the island, but people there could use any help they can get to try to rebuild their destroyed lives. While President Donald Trump may be spending his weekend trashing football players on Twitter, if you want to lend a hand to a fellow American in need, there are easy ways to kick in a few bucks.
This massive international crowdfunding community that connects nonprofits and donors is providing emergency supplies like food, water and medicine to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico. All donations to this fund exclusively support hurricane relief and recovery efforts in the Caribbean. You can donate here.
The United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF, is providing immediate support to children affected by Hurricane Maria. 90 percent of every dollar spent goes directly to helping kids. You can donate to UNICEF USA here.
United for Puerto Rico
The first lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Rossello, has teamed up with corporate behemoths like Coca Cola, Walmart and Burger King to help provide aid to hurricane victims. You can donate to this campaign here.
Students With Puerto Rico
This is a group of college students from around the United States, with ties to Puerto Rico, who put together a GoFundMe campaign. Proceeds will go to United for Puerto Rico, the first lady Rossello's initiative. You can donate here.
Unidos: A Relief Fund for Hurricane Maria Victims in Puerto Rico
The Hispanic Federation, along with New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and US Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) and Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), set up this fund. One hundred percent of proceeds will go to hurricane relief and recovery efforts. You can donate to them here.
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is providing food, shelter and cleaning supplies to victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, wherever they may be. You can donate here.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.