SAN JUAN – Puerto Ricans are still largely without electricity and phone service, facing severe fuel-distribution problems and struggling to obtain food, water and other basic goods a week after Hurricane Maria devastated that United States commonwealth.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello’s administration and US federal agencies are working to get the situation back to normal, although some sectors are still cut off and torrential rains in the western portion of the island are complicating the recovery effort.
Only 4 percent of the customers of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority have had their electricity restored, according to PREPA director Ricardo Ramos, who said hospitals and the Puerto Rico Aqueducts and Sewer Authority (PRASA), which supplies commercial water service, were the priorities at this time.
Meanwhile, motorists wait in massive lines outside open gas stations in a desperate search for fuel and supermarkets and other stores are slowly returning to normal hours.
The situation in the capital, San Juan, is trying but still far better than in remote interior and mountainous areas, where a week after Maria made landfall on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 hurricane many areas remain cut off and the supply of basic goods and fuel is scarce.
A major problem is a lack of trucks to move the merchandise that arrives at Puerto Rican ports to grocery stores and distribution centers.
The lack of fuel is seriously hampering people’s mobility and the general functioning of the island, considering that diesel is needed to run the generators needed to keep restaurants, businesses and buildings operating.
Rossello has issued an urgent call for truckers to make their way to fuel depots, although major problems with telephone communications are hindering that effort.
The director of the Caribbean Area Division of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency, Alejandro de la Campa, said on Wednesday that for the first time in its history the US Army Corps of Engineers would be deployed to rebuild electrical infrastructure in a US territory facing an emergency situation.
A week after the hurricane made landfall, more than 10,000 people remain at the roughly 180 shelters that had been set up throughout the island.
Water service is starting to be restored, with the executive president of PRASA, Eli Diaz, saying that a half million customers once again have potable water.
In terms of foreigners and tourists on the island, the Colombian Consulate-General in San Juan said a plane from the Andean nation was arriving Wednesday to evacuate its citizens.