Puerto Rico

"We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders" in Puerto Rico "forever," President Trump said Thursday, hinting at a possible limit on federal aid to the island territory where 3.4 million Americans have struggled to recover from two destructive hurricanes.

Here are the president's comments on the issue, compressed from three consecutive tweets:

Café Hacienda San Pedro, a trendy coffee shop in San Juan, is buzzing. A long line snakes through it. People are chatting; dogs sit snoozing. Everything looks normal.

But in a few months, it probably won't.

Carl Juste / Miami Herald

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has co-signed a letter asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to send more support to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Health-care funding was already tight before the storms, particularly in financially unstable Puerto Rico, where nearly half the population is covered by Medicaid.

Every Sunday since Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico, Ada Reyes and her four children have walked half an hour to church. Down a winding road, dodging fallen trees and debris, they walk past concrete houses still bearing flood marks, and finally cross the Vivi — a small river in Utuado, a city in the central mountain region.

Puerto Ricans say it's taller than the Statue of Liberty and the largest homage to Christopher Columbus in the world. It's a towering 350-foot-tall statue of the explorer and it's perched on the island's waterfront. While the statue survived Hurricane Maria which hit Puerto Rico more than two weeks ago, the town it resides in wasn't as lucky.

It's tough to do justice to the huge sculpture that towers over Arecibo, a beach town on Puerto Rico's northern coast some 50 miles from the capital San Juan.

Peter Haden / WLRN

Hundreds of anxious South Floridians swarmed the Port Everglades cruise terminal Tuesday morning to welcome a cruise ship transformed into a relief vessel: Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas.

Its storm-weary cargo:  nearly 4,000 evacuees from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands fleeing the ravages of Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

The ship represented a new start for some, reunification for others after the one-two punch of hurricanes smashed the Caribbean with devastating force last month, leaving millions without power, homes or jobs.

Miami Herald

Puerto Ricans on the island are desperate for help following Hurricane Maria. As of this weekend, about 30 percent of the island has telecommunications capabilities; roughly half of supermarkets are open part of the time; and a little more than half of gas stations are pumping. But people need water. They need basic supplies. They need money. 

CNN reports that there are thousands of shipping containers stuck in San Juan's port. Barely 20 percent of truck drivers have returned to work. There's a fuel shortage. Add to that, many roads have not been cleared. 

Al Diaz / Miami Herald

This week's guests on The Florida Roundup with host Tom Hudson include: 

Eight-year-old Yan Anthony Hernandez has deep dimples on each side of his smile. Somehow, he managed to sleep through the hurricane that roared over his home in Isabela, Puerto Rico. Unlike those living in wooden houses, his cement home held up.

But now, there's no electricity or cellphone service, and his school is closed. Instead of spending his free time on his Playstation or watching YouTube videos as he usually does, he's a little bored.

A laborer named Angel Ramos used to gather mangos and avocados that grew wild in the hills above the city of Cayey, in Puerto Rico's east. The woods were verdant, they smelled of fecundity — and made him feel part of creation.

Then the hurricane came.

"I climbed up to see what the mountain looks like. Oh, the sadness," Ramos says. "I see the uprooted trees. The naked limbs. It makes you want to cry when you to see it. How it's destroyed. It is torturous to look at."

Courtesy Robert Asencio

Puerto Rico’s hurricane crisis is a reminder that Puerto Ricans are South Florida’s fastest growing population. Puerto Rican state legislator Robert Asencio has just visited the island - and says the disaster may well mean an even bigger Puerto Rican community here.

Updated at 10:10 p.m. ET

Millions of people in Puerto Rico need fuel, water, food and medicine. More than a week after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, major infrastructure is still down. Stores have trouble filling their shelves. Families are running low on the supplies they stockpiled before the storm, and across the island, many residents say they haven't seen any aid deliveries.

Meanwhile, at the port in San Juan, row after row of refrigerated shipping containers sit humming. They've been there for days, goods locked away inside.

Julio Alicea's 8-month-old granddaughter Aubrey came down with severe respiratory problems a day after Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico. "We are very lucky," Alicea says. "The hospital is open and we live nearby." Aubrey's cough turned intense, and when she started vomiting, Alicea says, he rushed her to the hospital at 4 a.m.

She didn't have any respiratory issues before the hurricane, Alicea says, sitting on a blue bench outside San Jorge Children's Hospital in San Juan. His 3-year-old granddaughter Angelica is keeping him company.

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it has temporarily waived a U.S. shipping restriction for Puerto Rico known as the Jones Act.

Under the law, only U.S.-flagged ships are allowed to move goods between any U.S. ports. Now foreign-flagged vessels also will be able to move shipments from the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico and between ports there. The move is intended to boost the delivery of much-needed relief supplies after Hurricane Maria battered the U.S. territory last week.

The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration thanked President Trump in a tweet:

How to help Puerto Rico after Maria

Sep 27, 2017
R
Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

It’s been a week since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, damaging homes and roads and destroying the island's power grid.

The official count puts the number of people killed at 16, but hundreds of people are still missing, and families are desperate to hear news of their whereabouts.

What’s the best way to help?  The United States Agency for International Development suggests donating money, instead of goods, after natural disasters.

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