More than 3.4 million U.S. citizens still lack adequate food, water and fuel five days after Maria pounded the island of Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane, and officials said electrical power may not be fully restored for more than a month.
Maria, the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years, destroyed hundreds of homes, knocked out power across the entire island and turned some streets into raging rivers in an onslaught that could plunge the U.S. territory deeper into financial crisis.
Supermarkets are gradually re-opening on the hurricane-ravaged island, but the situation is far from normal and many customers are going home disappointed.
Most food stores and restaurants remain closed, largely because power is out for most of the island and few have generators or enough diesel to power them. The shops that were open Monday had long lines outside and vast empty shelves where they once held milk, meat and other perishables. Drinking water was nowhere to be found.
Mercedes Caro shook her head in frustration as she emerged from the SuperMax in the Condado neighborhood of San Juan with a loaf of white bread, cheese and bananas.
“There is no water and practically no food,” she said. “Not even spaghetti.”
Maria Perez waited outside a Pueblo supermarket in a nearby part of San Juan, hoping to buy some coffee, sugar and maybe a little meat to cook with a gas stove that has enough propane for about another week.
“We are in a crisis,” Perez said. “Puerto Rico is destroyed.”
It was announced today that the U.S. federal government will pick up 100 percent of the costs of debris removal and other emergency assistance to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
President Donald Trump made the change Tuesday as part of an amendment to his earlier disaster declaration authorizing federal aid. U.S. states and territories typically cover 25 percent of the costs, with the federal government paying the remaining 75 percent. But the island’s government is so strapped for cash that Puerto Rican officials and sympathetic members of Congress had called on Trump to waive the cost-sharing requirement.
Trump’s declaration covers the removal of downed trees, utility poles and other debris, as well as spending for emergency measures to protect lives and public health and safety.
Here is a look back at events as they unfolded in Puerto Rico before and after Hurricane Maria.
Text from the AP news story, Puerto Rico emerges from storm; water and some food scarce, by Ben Fox.
Photos by Carlos Giusti and Gerald Herbert
Visual artist and Digital Storyteller at The Associated Press