Aid flows to Puerto Rico; many still without food, water access
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 around the country, especially outside the capital, who were 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 various 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 coast 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 was in the town the previous two days to distribute meal packets, water and snacks. But people said they hadn’t been able to get there in time.
“This has been a complete disaster,” said 64-year-old retiree Genny 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, 33, a father of two teenagers who had managed to get two boxes of water, each containing 24 bottles, and three packages of meals-readyto-eat.