cloudy
Tuesday November 21st, 2017 3:22AM

Stories from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

By The Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Last week Puerto Ricans hunkered down as Hurricane Maria raked the length of the island, killing at least 16 people, wrecking the electricity grid and grinding up homes, businesses, roads and farms.

After the storm passed, islanders set about digging out from the mud and debris slung by worst storm to hit the island in nearly a decade. They went in search of basic necessities: water, food, gas for a generator, a cellphone signal or a Wi-Fi hotspot to connect with relatives.

All of that remains in very short supply a week later, and now many are wondering how long it will take for life to return to normal in the U.S. territory of 3.4 million.

Here are the stories of some of those who lived through the storm and are struggling in its aftermath:

___

OFFERING WHAT YOU CAN

Days after the storm hit Sept. 20, Rosa Maria Almonte's cafe in San Juan was still without power and all the other businesses nearby were boarded up. But she still managed to serve up hot meals for people left with little in Maria's wake.

There was no running water or electricity, but over a gas stove, her daughter cooked up rice, beans and pork chops.

Almonte has run El Buen Cafe for 21 years and has seen tough times before. But the severity of the damage from Maria, and the prospect of a recovery taking weeks or months, had her wondering whether there is any point in staying.

"I don't know if I can keep going," the 73-year-old said Friday after mopping up water that seeped into the shop. The awning lay in a heap on the counter.

"What am I doing here?" she wondered.

___

ON THEIR OWN

In the northern town of Montebello, Maribel Valentin Espino and her husband said they have not seen anyone from the Puerto Rican government, much less the Federal Emergency Management Agency, since the storm tore through.

She, her husband and her teenage son relied on help from relatives to find shelter when the hurricane hit. After it passed, neighbors formed volunteer brigades to cut away fallen trees and clear mountain roads after the storm. Now friends and a local cattle ranch are providing water to help them survive in the tropical heat.

"People say FEMA is going to help us," Valentin said Tuesday. "We're waiting."

In Montebello, nestled in what used to be lushly forested mountains near the northern coastal municipality of Manati, Maria stripped the trees bare and scattered them like matchsticks.

"It seemed like a monster," Valentin recalled.

The community remains isolated.

___

SEARCHING FOR A CONNECTION

Ricardo Castellanos makes twice-daily visits to two free Wi-Fi hotspots in San Juan — among the rare places these days where Puerto Ricans can still get online and in touch with relatives across the island and overseas.

On Monday, Castellanos was trying to reach his two daughters in the central town of Gurabo — whom he hadn't heard from since the storm. He has also been using the hotspots to send his own news to a few friends, passing on photos of Maria's devastation.

Communication has become a resource nearly as precious as power and water. Some Puerto Ricans are pulling over on the side of highways in search of a stronger cell signal. Others — both on the island and elsewhere — have called a local radio station to provide names, numbers and addresses of loved ones they have yet to hear from.

There is also some anger over what some say has been a lack of communication from cellphone providers about which towers are working.

"They're not giving us any information," said Castellanos, a business consultant. "We're in a state of emergency."

___

MAKING THE MOST OF A BAD SITUATION

Puerto Rico's economy has ground nearly to a complete halt. There are long lines at the handful of banks that have opened and limited number of ATMs that have cash. Many people are unable to work or run businesses because there's no electricity, or diesel to fuel generators. Stores are almost always unable to process credit or bank cards and accept only cash.

But as with any crisis, there are some who weather it better than others.

Elpidio Fernandez, who sells coconut and passion fruit ice cream from a pushcart in San Juan, has a supplier with a generator and says business is booming. He has made up to $500 on some days since the storm.

"Business has multiplied by a thousand," said Fernandez, 78, quickly adding: "Even though I'm doing well, I don't feel good because I know other people are suffering."

Christian Mendoza said the car wash where he works is closed so he has been selling bottled water — even though it's not refrigerated.

"The water (was) hot, and it still went like you wouldn't believe," he said.

___

STAY, OR GO?

With the economy in ruins, homes in tatters and food, water and other basics in short supply, many Puerto Ricans are thinking of leaving. But others can't imagine life elsewhere.

Israel Molina, the 68-year-old owner of Israel Mini Market in San Juan, said he has had the shop for 26 years. He bought it and rebuilt it after Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989.

Parts of the roof have been ripped away, but Molina wants to stay.

"I'm from here. I believe we have to step up to the task. If everyone leaves, what are we going to do? With all the pros and the cons, I will stay here," he said Friday.

After a pause, he added: "I might have a different response tomorrow."

Nearby, hair salon co-owner Diana Jaquez assessed the damage with help from her husband as their children played.

"I haven't decided yet," she said when asked whether she would remain.

___

Associated Press writers Danica Coto in San Juan and Ben Fox in Montebello contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Utilities
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
TV-gadget maker Roku's stock soars after IPO raises $219M
Shares of Roku, an early player in streaming-video gadgets, are soaring after its initial public offering of stock raised $219 million
5:02PM ( 7 minutes ago )
American Airlines CEO: We'll never lose money again
CEO of American Airlines says industry has changed so much that his company will never lose money again
4:59PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Facing criticism, Trump clears way for more Puerto Rico aid
President Donald Trump clears the way for more supplies to head to Puerto Rico and tweeted that relief was getting through, but on the island food and water were scarce in devastated towns where residents complain the federal response has been a disaster
4:51PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Hawaii land board grants permit to build divisive telescope
Hawaii's land board has approved a construction permit for a giant telescope on a mountain that Native Hawaiians consider sacred
4:45PM ( 24 minutes ago )
The Latest: HHS chief cooperates with probes of charter use
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price says he is cooperating with investigations into his travel on costly charter flights
4:42PM ( 27 minutes ago )
Police: Girlfriend's dad among 2 charged in fatal beating
Police say one of two men charged in the beating death of a hogtied Oklahoma man is the father of the victim's girlfriend
4:28PM ( 41 minutes ago )
AP National News
IS reclusive leader rallies followers in purported new audio
IS leader al-Baghdadi rallies followers after loss of Mosul, urges jihadis to burn 'media centers of the infidels'
3:57PM ( 1 hour ago )
Twitter execs talk to House, Senate in Russia probe
Social media giant Twitter is visiting Capitol Hill Thursday as part of the House and Senate investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 elections
3:55PM ( 1 hour ago )
Feeling old? DNA supports an early evolution of our species
A study of DNA from African fossils is providing new evidence that our species is a lot older than scientists had shown
3:26PM ( 1 hour ago )
Top General short headlines
The Latest: Twitter says it suspended Russia-linked accounts
Social media company Twitter says it took action to suspend about two dozen accounts that were linked to fake, Russia-tied Facebook accounts were pushing divisive social and political issues during the 2016 U.S. presidential election
4:40PM ( 30 minutes ago )
The Latest: Adviser defends decision on Puerto Rico shipping
President Donald Trump's homeland security adviser is defending Trump's decision to hold off on waiving a law that requires that goods shipped between U.S. ports to be carried by U.S.-flagged vessels
4:32PM ( 38 minutes ago )
Russia's Putin visits Turkey as ties between nation's deepen
Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited Turkey for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that focused on the situation in Iraq and Syria along with bilateral trade
4:30PM ( 40 minutes ago )
AP Business
Tribal head who led Dakota Access pipeline fight voted out
The American Indian leader who spearheaded opposition to the four-state Dakota Access pipeline has been ousted as Standing Rock Sioux chairman
1:55PM ( 3 hours ago )
Iraqi Kurdish region faces isolation after independence vote
A backlash appears to be intensifying against Iraq's Kurds after the region overwhelmingly voted to support independence in a nonbinding referendum
1:52PM ( 3 hours ago )
Con man steals spotlight as informant in basketball probe
Con man failed in scheme to make movies with money swiped from pro athletes, but succeeded in stealing spotlight in college basketball scandal
9:31AM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
Global stocks stable as investors gauge US tax plan impact
Global stock are steady as investors try to gauge the impact of the sweeping tax plan unveiled by U.S. President Donald Trump, while geopolitical tensions surrounding North Korea have kept risk sentiment in check
8:03AM ( 9 hours ago )
China orders North Korean business closed under UN sanctions
China has ordered North Korean-owned businesses and ventures with Chinese partners to close under U.N. sanctions imposed over the North's nuclear and missile programs
7:51AM ( 9 hours ago )
Asian stocks mixed as investors gauge impact of US tax plan
Asian markets are mixed as investors try to gauge the impact from the tax reform plan unveiled by Trump while geopolitical tensions surrounding North Korea have kept risk sentiment in check
3:40AM ( 13 hours ago )
AP Business - Utilities
TV-gadget maker Roku's stock soars after IPO raises $219M
Shares of Roku, an early player in streaming-video gadgets, are soaring after its initial public offering of stock raised $219 million
5:02PM ( 8 minutes ago )
American Airlines CEO: We'll never lose money again
CEO of American Airlines says industry has changed so much that his company will never lose money again
4:59PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Facing criticism, Trump clears way for more Puerto Rico aid
President Donald Trump clears the way for more supplies to head to Puerto Rico and tweeted that relief was getting through, but on the island food and water were scarce in devastated towns where residents complain the federal response has been a disaster
4:51PM ( 19 minutes ago )
Speaker Ryan seeks _ and needs _ a win as he sells tax plan
House Speaker Paul Ryan is embarking on the endeavor that's animated his career, and that now confronts him as a make-or-break political challenge: getting an ambitious tax overhaul plan passed into law
4:50PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Actress Anne Jeffreys, star of TV's 'Topper' dies at 94
Anne Jeffreys, singer, actress, star of TV's 'Topper' as 'the ghostess with the mostess,' dies at 94
4:49PM ( 21 minutes ago )