Puerto Ricans Describe 'Horror In The Streets' After Hurricane Maria

As many as 70,000 American lives are at risk if the territory's Guajataca dam breaks.
LOADINGERROR LOADING

We鈥檝e heard devastating stories in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, but not nearly enough about the impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico.

The U.S. territory was slammed by the tropical storm mere days ago. As 3.4 million residents continue to scramble to safety, the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossell贸, has called for more federal aid. Many residents do not have access to water, power or roads. It鈥檚 been described as 鈥渁pocalyptic.鈥

At least 13 lives have been lost in the storm and there are 70,000 more at risk should a dam in the western part of the island break.

Rossell贸 said in an appearance on CNN Monday morning that the Guajataca dam has fallen apart in a 鈥渃ritical infrastructure failure,鈥 adding that strenuous efforts are being made to ensure that everyone in the dam鈥檚 vicinity have been evacuated. When asked if he thinks the dam will falter, Rossell贸 said he鈥檇 鈥渉ave to assume so.鈥

鈥淚 don鈥檛 have all the details. ... My action has been to order an evacuation. I鈥檇 rather be wrong on that front than doing nothing and having it fail and costing people鈥檚 lives,鈥 he said.

Rossell贸 added that he鈥檚 鈥渕ade contact with all the municipalities鈥 within Puerto Rico and has established runners 鈥渢o go to those areas where we don鈥檛 have telecoms or radio so that we can get information.鈥

鈥淲e鈥檝e established routes so that we can deliver food, water, diesel so that things can keep on moving. We鈥檝e energized the main hospital in Puerto Rico and given fuel to alternate hospitals around the island. We鈥檝e opened the ports to get more resources,鈥 he said.

An aerial view shows the damage Saturday to the Guajataca dam in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico.
An aerial view shows the damage Saturday to the Guajataca dam in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico.
Alvin Baez / Reuters
People queue to fill containers with gasoline at a gas station after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico.
People queue to fill containers with gasoline at a gas station after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico.
Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters
A man looks at the damages to his house after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico.
A man looks at the damages to his house after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico.
Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

Many residents have been unable to get in touch with their families outside of Puerto Rico and within, as nearly 95 percent of wireless cell service is currently out of service, according to the island鈥檚 Federal Communications Commission.

New Yorker Kristin Vazquez, 25, has family in Puerto Rico and tells HuffPost she hasn鈥檛 spoken to her family since the day of the hurricane.

鈥淚鈥檓 concerned about my great-grandmother. She鈥檚 103 years old, and without the proper resources she may be in serious danger,鈥 Vazquez said. 鈥淢y cousin might fly down to Puerto Rico if she doesn鈥檛 hear from them.鈥

Others, some who have also been unable to speak with their families, have been sharing their stories on social media:

Organizations on the ground are working tirelessly to assess damage and help provide much-needed aid to those affected, including ConPRMetidos, a nonprofit based in San Juan focused on connecting Puerto Ricans with personal, social and economic opportunities.

Isabel Rullan, director of ConPRMetidos, told HuffPost that fallen trees, broken glass and downed power lines litter the island鈥檚 streets, alongside people desperately trying to find cell phone signals.

鈥淚t looks like winter because there鈥檚 no leaves on the trees,鈥 said Rullan, 29, said. 鈥淩ight now, in front of my desk, I see a tree completely pulled out from the roots.鈥

鈥淲e don鈥檛 have water in the office and there are no supermarkets around us. This is no joke.鈥

- Isabel Rullan, director of ConPRMetidos

Six-hour lines have formed at some gas stations around San Juan, where people are desperate to fill up their tanks, Rullan said. Drinking water is scarce, too.

鈥淲e don鈥檛 have water in the office and there are no supermarkets around us,鈥 Rullan, 29, said. 鈥淭his is no joke. Someone is going to have to go get water.鈥

Looting has also become an issue in some neighborhoods surrounding the island鈥檚 capital.

鈥淲e heard about an apartment building where four people broke in,鈥 Rullan said. 鈥淧eople are worried ... and just trying to be really cautious. Someone told me today that a person went into a gas station with rifles and told everyone, 鈥業t鈥檚 our turn to fill our tanks.鈥欌

Still, Rullan said she鈥檚 been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and interest from those on the U.S. mainland reaching out to her organization in hopes of helping.

鈥淧eople are just so grateful to be alive,鈥欌 she said. 鈥淲e鈥檙e working as a community. We don鈥檛 have energy or water, but we鈥檒l figure it out.鈥

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yul铆n Cruz confirmed reports of looting. 鈥淭here is horror in the streets,鈥 Cruz said in an interview with The Washington Post published Monday. 鈥淭here is no electricity anywhere in Puerto Rico. People are actually becoming prisoners in their own homes.鈥

Puerto Rico has suffered a major blow to its agricultural industry as well. More than 80 percent of the island鈥檚 crops have been destroyed by the historic storm, reported The New York Times.

鈥淭here will be no food in Puerto Rico,鈥 Jos茅 A. Rivera, a farmer in southeast Puerto Rico, told the Times. 鈥淭here is no more agriculture in Puerto Rico. And there won鈥檛 be any for a year or longer.鈥

President Donald Trump pledged federal help for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, but has yet to make a comment about the effects of the hurricane on the territory.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both implored Trump to shift his attention to the dire situation in Puerto Rico:

If you鈥檙e looking for ways to help the people of Puerto Rico, you can find some here.

This article has been updated to include quotes from Rullan and Cruz.

Before You Go

Hurricane Maria Devastation In Puerto Rico

Popular in the Community

Close

What's Hot