The situation in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria remains grim; Monica Casablanca lives part time in the San Juan neighborhood of Ocean Park and the rest of the time in New York. After Hurricane Maria pounded the island she took food and supplies to Puerto Rico and returned to New York Tuesday.
“It looks like a bomb went off. It looks like the atomic bomb went off.”
Do people have drinking water? Do people have food, electricity?
“No drinking water. The water is coming on in the house, but, it’s on one minute, it’s off the next. That water is not safe to drink. But, it’s very difficult to boil the water because there’s a very limited supply of gas for the propane tanks and there’s no electricity. So, it’s almost impossible to boil it unless you know how to light a fire.”
So, how is it that people are surviving without fresh drinking water or without electric–
“Right now, what we were doing we were rationing everything and you know, you just have a limited amount per day, per person.”
What about hospitals? Did they have power? What about the most serious injuries?
“Hospitals are very limited with power as well as services. I received a message from someone that I know that they knew someone that was getting released from an intensive care unit and they needed somebody to pick them up. That person was not ready to be checked out of the hospital, but, there was nothing that they could do. So, she was just asking for a volunteer to pick that person up. The problem is, not only do you have to pick up somebody that needs resources, but, you don’t know where his family is, you don’t know what condition you’re gonna take somebody home with. So, that’s how bad the hospitals are.”
How is communication there? Do people have mobile phones or landlines? Is any of that working?
“Some of the landlines are working. Some of the phones work sporadicly. They don’t work on a constant basis. So, if I’m speaking, I could be in the same area–in the same spot–and five minutes later it won’t work.”
What do you think the U.S. Government’s response has been so far, including President Trump?
“There’s been no response. It is the saddest thing you could possibly see days after the fact and people are just literally dying. I never saw one national guard. I never saw one police officer, other than in the airport. There was never any vigilance by my house. There was nothing.”
What can people do right now? If we’re sitting here, in Florida, what can we do to help the people of Puerto Rico?
“I just want to make it clear, I was not there for the hurricane. I flew out on that Sunday because many of my friends and family–they had gone through Irma–they had very limited resources at that point and they were running low on medication. Even though we knew the hurricane hit really hard, we didn’t know that a week after it would be like this. I decided to get on a plane and just think ahead. And I bought much needed supplies. I bought 210 pounds of food and water and boxes of Pampers and things like that.
“Right now, I think we have to be very wise on who we give money to and of course we have to give, but, know how we’re giving. We have to devise a long term plan and we have to shed a lot of light on the people from Puerto Rico that they have nothing, no resources at all. At night the temperature is just insane. You can’t sleep. You can’t think. People are getting angry. People are desperate because they don’t have any cash and that’s a big problem. You can get some gas, but, you don’t have any cash to buy the gas then there that goes.
“I just want people to try and put themselves in the shoes of literally no water, no lights, no security, very hot and also surrounded by very dirty water that doesn’t seem to go away. That’s just gonna be an epidemic for Dengue. It’s going to just translate into many other problems. In addition to all that list they also have no cash. We just have to keep on shedding the light and hopefully fly back and forth there.”
President Donald Trump temporarily waived restrictions on foreign ships bringing ships, but two Republican senators introduced legislation to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act.
Across the aisle, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson also criticized the Trump administration’s response in a video provided by his office.
“There is a crisis in Puerto Rico where food, fuel, water and medicine is sitting at the docks and not getting out to the remote parts of the island. The situation calls for an immediate response by the U.S. military to provide security and distribution to these remote areas. As was said after Hurricane Andrew: ‘Where the hell is the cavalry?’”