Aid flows to Puerto Rico but many still lack wa­ter and food

Porterville Recorder - - THE RECORD - By BEN FOX and DAN­ICA COTO

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Thou­sands of Puerto Ri­cans were fi­nally get­ting wa­ter and food ra­tions Fri­day as an aid bot­tle­neck be­gan to ease, but many re­mained cut off from the ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties of life and were des­per­ate for power, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and other trap­pings of nor­mal­ity in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Maria.

There were many peo­ple across the is­land, es­pe­cially out­side the cap­i­tal, un­able to get wa­ter, gas or gen­er­a­tor fuel. That was de­spite the fact that mil­i­tary trucks laden with wa­ter bot­tles and other sup­plies be­gan to reach even some re­mote parts of Puerto Rico and U.S. fed­eral of­fi­cials pointed to progress in the re­cov­ery ef­fort, in­sist­ing that more gains would come soon.

In some cases, aid that was be­ing dis­trib­uted by the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency was sim­ply not enough to meet de­mand on an is­land of 3.4 mil­lion peo­ple where nearly ev­ery­one was still with­out power, half were with­out run­ning wa­ter in their homes and the econ­omy was still crip­pled from the ef­fects of the storm that swept across the U.S. ter­ri­tory as a fierce Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane on Sept. 20.

“I haven’t seen any help and we’re run­ning out of wa­ter,” said Pe­dro Gon­za­lez, who was clear­ing de­bris to earn some money in the north­ern coastal town of Rio Grande. In­creas­ingly des­per­ate and with a daugh­ter with Down syn­drome to sup­port, he had al­ready de­cided to move to Louisiana to stay with rel­a­tives. “We’re get­ting out of here.”

FEMA sent Rio Grande of­fi­cials ship­ments of food and wa­ter for the past three days and ar­rived Thurs­day to help dis­trib­ute meal pack­ets, wa­ter and snacks in one com­mu­nity. But peo­ple in nearby neigh­bor­hoods com­plained that they weren’t told about the aid.

“This has been a com­plete dis­as­ter,” said 64-year-old re­tiree Jenny Cordero as she filled plas­tic trash cans with wa­ter at the home of a neigh­bor who was among the lucky ones to have ser­vice re­stored.

Those who made it, how­ever, were grate­ful. “This will help some­what, so we don’t starve,” said An­thony Jer­ena, a 33-year-old fa­ther of two teenagers who man­aged to get two boxes of wa­ter, each con­tain­ing 24 bot­tles and, three pack­ages of meals-ready-to-eat.

AP PHOTO BY RAMON ESPINOSA

Peo­ple af­fected by Hur­ri­cane Maria bathe in wa­ter piped from a creek in the moun­tains, in Naran­jito, Puerto Rico, Thurs­day. Res­i­dents of the area drive to the pipes to bathe be­cause they were left with­out wa­ter sup­plies by the dam­age caused by Hur­ri­cane Maria. The pipe was set up by a neigh­bor who ran it from a creek in his prop­erty to the side of the road in or­der to help those left with­out wa­ter.

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