Hurricane Maria: Puerto Rico officials describe ‘apocalyptic’ conditions

(CNN) — Days after Hurricane Maria pounded the island of Puerto Rico, killing at least 10 people, authorities are starting to see firsthand the scope of devastation that left the US territory off the grid.

Without power and communications in much of the island, millions of people, including city leaders and first responders, have been cut off from the world since Maria hit Wednesday.

Authorities flew over the island Saturday, and were stunned by what they saw. No cellphones, water or power. Roads completely washed away and others blocked by debris, isolating residents.

“It was devastating to see all that kind of debris in all areas, in all towns of the island,” Jenniffer González, the island’s non-voting representative in Congress told CNN.

“We never expected to have a lot of debris in so many areas. A lot of roads are closed, older ones are just gone,” she added.

Related Content: Storm Team 8 Hurricane Tracker

At least 10 people have been confirmed killed by the storm, according to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s office.

Roselló met with more than 50 mayors and representatives from across Puerto Rico on Saturday. Some described the conditions in their communities as “apocalyptic” and said there have been incidents of looting in both homes and stores.

“We know a little more today than we did yesterday,” Rossello said. “This is going to be a long road.”

A dam is in danger of collapsing, adding to the crisis.

Army, more federal aid coming

US President Donald Trump has pledged federal help for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration said 4,000 members of the US Army Reserves have been deployed to the island to help with Hurricane Maria recovery.

Related Content: Malloy deploys more National Guard resources to the Caribbean for hurricane relief

“Federal partners are aggressively working to meet and overcome challenges to opening ports and restoring power to bring additional life-saving commodities and personnel into disaster-affected areas,” the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a statement.

Several flights and sea vessels with meals, water and generators have been arriving or are headed to Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands affected, the agency said.

Brock Long, the FEMA director, said on Twitter Sunday he would visit Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands on Monday.

Puerto Ricans living without water, communication

Residents also have limited access to cell signal, causing panic among families at home and abroad who have been unable to contact their loved ones.

“I know many people who are living in the States are worried about not hearing from their families,” González said. “Don’t get nervous, we just have problems with communications lines.”

More than 95% of the wireless cell sites are currently out of service, the island’s Federal Communications Commission said Saturday.

Related Content: Puerto Rico faces weeks without electricity after Maria

East of Maunabo, in Humacao, people stop their cars along the side of the road near a cell tower on a hill. It’s the only access to cellphone service for miles.

“We’re trying to communicate to our families in the US,” said Jose Flores, who traveled 17 miles to reach the tower. “I just got connected to my daughter in Florida, and she will let the rest of the family know I’m fine.”

On the northwest part of the island, authorities had to physically go to thousands of residents to warn them of a potential dam collapse near the Guajataca River.

“We don’t know how much longer it will hold,” he said. “The structure has been significantly compromised.”

Maria marching north

The National Hurricane Center says the storm could impact the US East Coast in the coming days.

“Interests along the coast of the Carolinas and the Mid-Atlantic should monitor the progress of Maria.” the center said in an advisory.

The Category 2 storm was carrying maximum sustained winds of 110 mph and was 290 miles east of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas. It was moving at 9 mph (15 kph), the center said.

As the storm slowly moves away from the Bahamas into the Atlantic, forecasters say southeastern US beaches will likely see “dangerous surf and rip currents” over the next several days.

Maria is expected to stay offshore but “the uncertainty is how close to the North Carolina coast Maria’s turn will occur,” the center said.

The storm hit Dominica, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the US Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos, a British overseas territory.

WTNH NEWS8 provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Also, you can now block any inappropriate user by simple selecting the drop down menu on the right of any comment and selection "Block User" from there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s