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Puerto Rico is getting help. But the destruction is so severe


The huge problem with helping Puerto Rico is you can’t just roll convoys of supplies in by truck. It’s an island. Everything comes in by ship or plane. FEMA, it appears, has genuinely mobilized as have multiple government agencies and resources. Thousands of personnel are on the ground. Search and rescue comes first, then getting power back on. However, the logistics are daunting and the level of destruction is horrendous. And people need food, water, medicine, and shelter now.

The National Guard Bureau (NGB) has more than 2,300 Guard members on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands taking part in security and support operations. The Air National Guard is focused on transporting food, water, and communications capabilities as well as rapidly increasing airlift into affected areas.

FEMA, working in coordination with federal partners, provided more than 1.5-million meals, 1.1-million liters of water, nearly 300 infant and toddler kits, and nearly 12,000 emergency roofing kits to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico for distribution to the public since Hurricane Maria’s landfall.

Ports are beginning to open, shipments are coming in. A few scattered areas have electricity and cell phone service. However, destroyed roads and little power slows everything down. The mayor of San Juan says two people just died in their hospital because generators ran out of fuel. Outbreaks of diseases could happen. So could rampaging gangs in the streets, as people get hungry and desperate. Many areas have no running water. That means maybe a couple of million people will need to find alternative ways to go potty, with all the accompanying health hazards that implies.

Puerto Rico’s water authority… is running water with generators it had in stock. All of the island’s waste water and water treatment plants lack electricity. “We still haven’t received the ones that FEMA is going to give me, but they are working with us,” he said. “We need 2,500 generators for the entire system to be running on generator power. Obviously we are not going to find that.”

“Do you know what people are referring to this town as? You know ‘The Walking Dead’?” Ms. Rivera said, noting that crime was sure to rise as people grew increasingly desperate. “We are afraid for our lives.”

Health care is a huge issue.

Although there’s food provided at the shelter, there is no running water. At night, she says, with no power residents are left in the dark and are awakened sometimes by the sound of gunshots nearby. But for Rivera and many others at the shelter, their biggest worry is health care.

“My husband is a kidney transplant survivor,” Rivera says, her voice trembling with emotion. “He’s diabetic and we don’t have ice to store his insulin.”