PUERTO RICO

As Puerto Rico begins a slow recovery from Hurricane Maria's destruction, many Puerto Ricans in Connecticut are struggling to find ways to help  family members in need of food and water.

Seventy-eight-year-old Alonso Mercado and his wife emerged from the gates at Logan Airport on Wednesday evening to see their children and grandchildren. They came from Puerto Rico to take refuge with family in the United States.

Being in the Boston, Mercado says, is like paradise.

“Like in heaven,” he says.

Mercado says his home is ruined, and he plans to stay on the mainland until Puerto Rico returns to normal.

“We didn’t have no light and no water,” Mercado says. “No electricity in the house, not in the house, in the whole Puerto Rico.”

Robert Fuller was loading his car with supplies in San Juan, getting ready to leave the battered capital for a trip inland to survey damage to local health facilities, when we caught up with him by phone.

Nearly a week after Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, students who can't return to school may need to continue their education on the mainland.

Some of the largest school districts in Florida, plus major cities like New York City and Chicago, are preparing for the possibility of an influx of students from the island.

In South Florida, Miami-Dade County public schools are already working to accommodate students who need to transfer from Puerto Rico.

Millions of people have no access to a power grid in Puerto Rico. Gas for cars and generators is hard to find. Cash is in short supply.

But there is another need that is even more pressing.

"I can live without power," says Wanda Ferrer. "But I can't live without water."

Ferrer was one of many people filling up at a government spigot in Toa Bajo, west of San Juan. Communities across Puerto Rico have lost running water as a result of the widespread power outages from Hurricane Maria, and it's not clear when it will be restored.

Homes lay in ruin as seen from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations, Black Hawk during a flyover of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria September 23, 2017.
Kris Grogan / U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Students, families and many school staff in Holyoke, Massachusetts, are still desperate for news from relatives in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria hit last week.

Much-needed supplies are either in Puerto Rico or on the way, officials say, but the island's governor acknowledges that they can't deliver fuel and other material quickly enough. Frustrated residents face long lines for fuel, as millions of people have gone nearly a week without power.

"We need resources and security. We need a quicker logistical deployment," Gov. Ricardo Rossello told NPR's Mary Louise Kelly on Tuesday. "You know, the gas and fuel issue is not a matter of how much do we have — it's a matter of how we can distribute it."

In a tiny sliver of shade, on a hill next to Puerto Rico's Route 65, Kiara Rodriguez de Jesus waves a sparkly pink hand fan to keep cool.

"I trust in God," she says. "Please, come the gas."

Along with her family, parked in a Volvo SUV, she has been in line for gasoline since 3 a.m., she says. Now it's after 1:30 p.m. And like everyone else at this gas station, she has no idea how much longer she'll be waiting.

A scene from Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
PBS NewsHour

Hurricane Maria is creating a challenge for a Massachusetts business.

As Puerto Ricans emerge from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, family members back in the continental U.S. are desperately trying to get in touch. In Connecticut, political leaders are focused on both how to rebuild, and how to find their loved ones.

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