Twenty days after Hurricane Maria crippled Puerto Rico, some residents on the south side of the island are still receiving just two bottles of water per day – a ration one West Palm Beach-based aid group called woefully inadequate.
Eagles Wings Foundation leader Scott Lewis, who has a team of 15 people working in the 23,000-person town of Santa Isabel, said that while some food and water is arriving from FEMA, PREMA (Puerto Rican Emergency Management Agency) and private donations, its’ not enough.
“Just 1,000 citizens got supplies yesterday out of 23,000,” Lewis said. “We have been asking for more resources for seven days now.”
In more than 15 requests hand delivered to relief headquarters in San Juan, Lewis said he has requested people to help manage distribution sites, and a FEMA officer to work with the incident command center in Santa Isabel.
“The conditions some of the vulnerable home-bound survivors are living in, borders on human rights violations,” said a handwritten message on an official FEMA form that Santa Isabel officials sent Sunday. “The lack of response to the number of submitted requests for support and/or supplies is negligent.”
While just 16 percent of Puerto Rico has electricity, the Army Corps of Engineers announced Monday it awarded its first contract to a company that will help repair the island’s mangled power grid.
The $35.1 million award went to Pennsylvania-based Weston Solutions, which will work on the Palo Seco Plant, one of the main power providers to the city of San Juan.
And there has been some progress in restoring communication and opening businesses.
The southern Port of Ponce is open, although only for boats with a draft less than 38 feet, said Coast Guard Lt. Commander Ryan Kelley.
FEMA said it was air dropping supplies on Tuesday to several central and southern cities including Juana Diaz, Coamo and Orocovis.
The website Status.pr, which updates what’s open and working, showed 78 percent of gas stations, 86 percent of supermarkets, 56 percent of banks and 92 percent of post offices were operational Tuesday.
But hours-long lines persist, and supplies are minimal.
“My husband had to go to the post office and he waited three hours in a line that went around the building,” said Yeovanna Gonzalez, 42, who left Puerto Rico last week with a one-way ticket to Atlanta. “To go to the store, you have to have your list ready and then a store employee goes with you. But I’ve seen there is not a lot of stuff in supermarkets.”
Gonzalez, who lives in the southwest part of Puerto Rico in Cabo Rojo, works online as a designer and can do her job from Atlanta to keep money coming in. She said she worries for her 63-year-old mother who is diabetic and needs insulin. Without electricity, the supply she had in her refrigerator before Maria is no longer viable.
“I can’t talk to her, she has no way to communicate,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t know how she is doing.”
Gonzalez said the impression people have in the southern and western part of Puerto Rico of that San Juan continues to get the majority of aid and attention, while other areas suffer.
Lewis’ group agrees.
“We are sitting here waiting for a flood of supplies to come, but we are not seeing it,” said Matthew Campbell, who works for the Eagles Wings Foundation and is in Santa Isabel. “You can imagine, you can drink one bottle of water just going back to the car, and they are only getting two.”