P.R. loves N.Y.

Warm wel­come for city task force giv­ing aid

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY GIN­GER ADAMS OTIS

AMID THE dev­as­ta­tion on Puerto Rico, is­landers were still able to give New York’s Task Force 1 a warm wel­come.

The 27-strong ur­ban search and res­cue team — made up of FDNY and NYPD first re­spon­ders — has been criss-cross­ing the com­mon­wealth for more than a week search­ing for sur­vivors and those in need of evac­u­a­tion.

Each step of the way, they’re greeted with big smiles and thumbs-up from lo­cals as they see the words “New York” on the team’s T-shirts, FDNY Capt. Liam Fla­herty said.

“It’s won­der­ful to see the re­silience of the peo­ple, their spir­its are great. As soon as they see we’re from New York, the smiles come out,” Fla­herty said.

“We’ve met dozens who have lived in the Bronx or Brook­lyn or have fam­ily in the city. It’s pretty nice to see their re­ac­tions when we are out and about,” said the cap­tain of Res­cue 2 in Brook­lyn.

“Given the ties be­tween Puerto Rico and New York, it’s re­ally mean­ing­ful for us to be down here help­ing them out.”

Fla­herty and oth­ers mem­bers of Task Force 1 spent sev­eral days this week in the town of Utu­ado, where a washed-out road and bridge made it im­pos­si­ble for lo­cals to evac­u­ate or search for food and clean drink­ing wa­ter.

Since then, they’ve moved far­ther west, into Moca and Rin­con, to sur­vey ev­ery sin­gle town.

“The west didn’t get hit quite as hard, given the storm’s tra­jec­tory,” Fla­herty said.

But the west­ern ar­eas are suf­fer­ing just as much, be­cause they’ve gone with­out sup­plies the long­est, he added.

“The power is out ev­ery­where, and a lot of the sup­plies are com­ing in east to west, so it’s tak­ing a lit­tle longer to get here. They are in need of wa­ter, more than any­thing,” he said.

The crew has had to im­pro­vise ways to cross swollen rivers or trek into the dense fo­liage to find ways around de­stroyed roads, ac­cord­ing to Fla­herty.

As tired as the team some­times gets, it’s worth it to bring some re­lief to the Puerto Ri­can com­mu­ni­ties that have been cut off from the out­side world since Hur­ri­cane Maria hit on Sept. 19.

“I tell them sup­plies are com­ing, things are get­ting bet­ter and I think it makes them feel a lit­tle bet­ter,” he said. “They took a re­ally tough blow.”

Task Force 1 mem­bers pack sup­plies for their trip.

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