A week after being hit by Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico begs for help

| September 27, 2017 | 1 Comment

An elderly woman rests Sept. 25 at a shelter set up in the Pedrin Zorrilla coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria. CNS photo/Carlos Garcia Rawlins, Reuters

More than a week after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, much of the island remained without communication and in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

News programs have been broadcasting about long lines of travelers, who have little food or water, and are desperate to get off the island at the San Juan airport to no avail.

But the scene of destruction outside the airport is even more stark: An island whose dense tropical landscape, along with its infrastructure, towns and cities, has been greatly stripped by winds that reached 155 mph.

Catholic Church groups have mobilized to send help. Some organizations, however, have reported problems mobilizing the aid out of airports and into the places and people who need them.

Officials say Hurricane Maria left 16 dead in Puerto Rico, 27 dead in Dominica and one in the U.S. Virgin Islands. But accurate information has been hard to come by since cellphone service and electricity, along with access to water and fuel, have been knocked out. Many roads into rural areas still are blocked by debris, making it difficult to access those who live there.

Many Puerto Ricans in the mainland U.S. have been making desperate pleas on social media to see if others can give them information about relatives or conditions in town or cities where their relatives live but which remain without communication.

President Donald Trump is set to visit Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory of 3.4 million, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands on Oct. 3. He has largely been criticized for what some perceive as a slow humanitarian response and for spending time tweeting against athletes as Puerto Rico suffered. But when he got around to tweeting about the island’s misery, he also offended many by bringing up its debt, including debt to Wall Street, as well as the island’s pre-existing failing infrastructure.

It took a week for the U.S. to send a plane carrying 3,500 pounds of water as well as food and other supplies to the island, but the president said, “It’s on an island in the middle of the ocean. … You can’t just drive your trucks there from other states.” A hospital ship also has been sent.

Scarcity of food, water and fuel is rampant. The deaths of two patients in intensive care at a San Juan hospital were blamed on lack of fuel.

On Sept. 28, the Trump administration said it would temporarily waive shipping restrictions known as the Jones Act to get fuel and supplies to the island.

Many, such as New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, are in the meantime offering Masses as well collecting donations to help in a long recovery ahead for Puerto Rico.

Cardinal Dolan will celebrate a Mass in Spanish at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Oct. 8, to “express prayerful solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico and Mexico — and their relatives and friends in New York — in the wake of the natural disasters that have ravaged both lands this month,” according to an article in the archdiocesan newspaper, Catholic New York.

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Category: U.S. & World News

  • Charles C.

    True, Trump is being criticized for his response to Puerto Rico, but is the criticism fair?
    —————–
    In an interview with PBS Newshour this evening [Sep. 25], Rosselló [Governor of Puerto Rico] thanked the Trump administration for their prompt response:

    JOHN YANG: Governor, are you getting all the aid you need or getting it fast enough from the states?

    GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO: First of all, we are very grateful for the administration. They have responded quickly. The president has been very attentive to the situation, personally calling me several times.

    FEMA and the FEMA director have been here in Puerto Rico twice. As a matter of fact, they were here with us today, making sure that all the resources in FEMA were working in conjunction with the central government.

    We have been working together. We have been getting results.

    ————————-

    AP reported:
    ———————
    “Rossello and other officials praised the federal government for planning its response in detail before the storm hit, a contrast with what Puerto Rico has long seen as the neglect of 3.4 million Americans living in a territory without a vote in Congress or the electoral college.”

    “This is the first time we get this type of federal coordination,” said
    Resident Commission Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s non-voting
    representative in Washington.
    ———————–
    “It may not be obvious to the media, but one of the difficulties in getting supplies to Puerto Rico is that it’s an island 1200+ nautical miles from Miami, the closest major
    U.S. port. Clearing the ports takes time, and getting supplies for 3.4 million people by plane into devastated airports isn’t a real option.”

    Sure, scold the President, but have your facts straight first.