SAN JUAN – Dozens of anxious passengers had to stay overnight on Monday, some even waited for days, at San Juan airport wanting to leave Puerto Rico in the face of a lack of basic services such as water and electricity, after Hurricane Maria hit the Caribbean island five days ago.
The anguish of these passengers – some have been waiting since Friday to escape the chaos and destruction caused by Hurricane Maria – is reflected in their faces, some with tears in their eyes from the confusion of not knowing when they will be able to proceed to their destinations.
Their purposes vary, and among them are family emergencies, such as that of 16-year-old Karimi Rivera, who has been waiting for a couple of days to leave Puerto Rico for her home in the state of Wisconsin.
Rivera told EFE that she and her mother were supposed to return to the United States on Wednesday at 8:00 am local time (1200 GMT), but the airline canceled their flight on Monday, when Puerto Rico was preparing for the approaching Hurricane Maria, a powerful category 4 hurricane with winds of over 250 km/h (155 mph).
Agustin Arellano, the executive director of Aerostar, which is the company that manages San Juan Airport, said on Monday at a press conference that the main problem of air transport is problems with the radar systems which handle the air traffic and the radio repeater stations used for communication were also destroyed.
For his part, the director of the Tourism Company of Puerto Rico, Jose Izquierdo, said on Monday that it is not advisable for tourists to visit Puerto Rico at the moment since the country has been largely devastated by the passage of Hurricane Maria.
“Now it is not advisable that tourists come to Puerto Rico because the conditions are not the best. We know that we will have to ‘refocus’ the message so that, once all of this is over, people will know that Puerto Rico will be ready to welcome them for the high season,” Izquierdo said.