Puerto Rico’s nightmare recovery

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FEMA visits damaged town 9 days after hurricane
02:49 - Source: CNN

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President Trump visits Puerto Rico on Tuesday

"My people are suffering. This is a disaster," says mayor of a town in western Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico CNN  — 

“I don’t want to live here anymore.”

Eyleen Gonzalez, all of 18 years of age, uttered that phrase without hesitating.

Gonzalez’s house in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, was destroyed by Hurricane Maria nearly two weeks ago.

Since then, everyone in her hometown has lived without electricity. Only a quarter of its 80,000 residents have running water. About half of gas stations in town are open, with long queues stretching blocks. Most supermarkets are open but rationing food.

The destruction in Toa Baja is the rule, not the exception, in Puerto Rico, where the recovery has moved at a glacial pace, according to over a dozen interviews with residents, local relief workers and small-town mayors across the island.

Federal officials and Puerto Rican government leaders stress the recovery efforts are “united.” But things took a divisive twist Saturday when President Donald Trump lambasted the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, for “poor leadership.”

Trump visits Puerto Rico on Tuesday, and he may get a sense of why the recovery has been a nightmare for many of the island’s 3.4 million US citizens.

“My people are suffering. This is a disaster,” says Carlos Mendez, the mayor of Aguadilla in western Puerto Rico.

Overwhelming destruction

The Port of San Juan, where much of the humanitarian aid is arriving, doesn’t have enough truck drivers. Even if it did, many trucks don’t have enough diesel fuel to deliver food, water and other essentials. There’s little cell service for those with the aid to communicate with towns, drivers and locals. Banks can’t get enough armored trucks to deliver cash too.

On top of all that, roads are marred with fallen trees – or the road just doesn’t exist anymore. In one town, residents strung a cable across a river to ford it in knee-deep water because the bridge connecting the two sides had been washed a football field’s length downriver.

Meanwhile, hospitals and food banks are running low on fuel for their generators to keep the lights on and preserve fruits, veggies and meat.