Puerto Rico in the dark after Maria

2017-09-26 11:53
In Puerto Rico, a resident tries to stay calm after loosing a portion of her roof to the fury of Hurricane Maria. (Carlos Giusti, AP)

In Puerto Rico, a resident tries to stay calm after loosing a portion of her roof to the fury of Hurricane Maria. (Carlos Giusti, AP)

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San Juan - Every night since Hurricane Maria hit, Miguel Martinez and his family have slept on mattresses on the porch to escape the heat inside their dark, stifling home. 

At least once a night they climb to the roof to catch a hint of breeze. Then the 51-year-old construction worker, his three children and one grandchild climb back down again.

"It's a heat from hell," Martinez said. "We don't have a generator or a fan. We have nothing. The children get desperate. You want just a little bit of cold water, but there's none."

The power is still out on nearly all of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria smashed poles, snarled power lines and flooded electricity-generating plants, knocking out a grid that was already considered antiquated compared to the US mainland.

Generators are providing power to the fortunate few who have them, but nearly all the island's 1.6 million electricity customers were still without power on Monday and facing many, many hot days and dark nights to come.

Power had been restored to a handful of hospitals and surrounding areas by Monday afternoon, but Public Affairs Secretary Ramon Rosario said it will take months to fully restore power to the island.

Utility workers from New York have arrived to help assess the damage, while planes and barges are bringing in more generators.

Roberto Ruiz, a 50-year-old handyman, handed a chilled bottle of water that his daughter brought home from her job, which has power, to a neighbour seeking something to drink.

"Look at this! Cold water!" exclaimed 70-year-old Jose Luis Burgos as he took the bottle and looked at it, mesmerized. "We are suffering here."

Ruiz said he jumps into the shower several times a day to cool off, letting water drip over his body instead of drying off afterward. He also leaves his windows open, which led to another problem: "Now the mosquitoes don't leave me alone."

Unlike Texas and Florida, where Hurricanes Harvey and Irma knocked out power grids this summer, workers from other utilities on the US mainland can't hop in trucks and drive to Puerto Rico.

By Monday afternoon the main airport in San Juan was not yet operating normally, which is slowing the airlift of crew, generators and other equipment.

Danico Coto on Twitter: https://twitter.com/danicacoto

David Koenig on Twitter: https://twitter.com/airlinewriter

Read more on:    puerto rico  |  hurricanes

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