Puerto Rico suffering humanitarian crisis after Maria, San Juan Mayor says by Madison Park and Jason Hanna, CNN
(CNN) Nearly a week after Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico, the US commonwealth looks something like this: Most homes are without power and phone service, with little hope of having it restored soon. Food and medicine are dwindling, especially for those isolated by impassable roads. And rescuers still are finding and removing desperate people from their demolished communities.
It is, in short, a humanitarian crisis, San Juan’s mayor told CNN on Tuesday.
“We are finding dialysis patients that haven’t been able to contact their providers, so we are having to transport them in near-death conditions,” Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said, recalling a group’s visit to two San Juan-area nursing homes this week. “We are finding people whose oxygen tanks are running out, because … small generators now don’t have any diesel.”
Searchers are trying to visit every structure in the capital area, she said. “Our bodies are so tired, but our souls are so full of strength, that we will get to everyone that we can get to,” Yulin said.
Two people died in an intensive care unit in a San Juan hospital after it ran out of diesel, Yulin said. Their causes of death weren’t immediately available. It wasn’t clear whether those deaths were among the at least 16 deaths that Karixia Ortiz, spokeswoman for the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety and Vilmar Trinta, spokesperson of Puerto Rico’s Police superintendent, attributed to the storm.
Hospitalized children at risk in Puerto Rico due to lack of fuelMaria struck September 20, knocking out power for nearly all the 3.4 million residents and demolishing structures on an island already struggling after Hurricane Irma’s brush earlier this month. Nearly 1.6 million electric customers in Puerto Rico are without power, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Energy Department, not counting those using generators as a backup.
Even before the hurricane hit, the island’s electrical grid was functioning with “Band-Aids,” Héctor Pesquera, the territory’s public security secretary, told CNNE.
President Donald Trump said Tuesday he will visit Puerto Rico on October 3, just as he inspected damage and rescue efforts in Texas and Florida after recent hurricanes in those states.
Residents in remote areas are stranded with shrinking supplies, and some haven’t been able to contact their families to tell them they survived.
Coffee growers Gaspar Rodriguez and Doris Velez said the food they had left has spoiled. “You work, work and work, and it’s for nothing,” Rodriguez said after losing everything.
Rescuers still are “removing people from hazardous conditions — (people who) are ill, that can’t move on their own,” said Carl Levon Kustin, a FEMA task force leader from California. “We’ve been working feverishly to get out to these areas,” Kustin said Tuesday.