No Electricity Means No Clean Water For Many In Puerto Rico
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
A bipartisan push is underway to get help to hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, a New York Democrat, are among those prodding the Trump administration to do more to help. President Trump says he will visit both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands next week. Meanwhile, frustration is growing. The power grid is still out. Gas shortages mean a lot of people and businesses cannot use their emergency generators. NPR's Greg Allen reports that in many places, though, the greatest need is clean, running water.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: At a government center in the town of Toa Baja, several people crowded yesterday around a spigot delivering a trickle of water.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking Spanish).
ALLEN: It was a friendly crowd, with everyone taking turns filling five-gallon jugs, bottles, and buckets with something most people take for granted, clean water.
WANDA FERRER: (Speaking Spanish).
ALLEN: Wanda Ferrer says she can live without power, but what she really needs is water. Olga Bayon also was there, one of many who's clearly getting fed up with the situation Puerto Rico's governor has described as an impending humanitarian crisis.
OLGA BAYON: (Speaking Spanish).
ALLEN: Bayon says, "the mayor of Toa Baja has not shown up and everybody here flooded. He hasn't shown up with drinking water, food. We don't have any of that." In Toa Baja, the worst flooding was in Levittown. It's a middle-class neighborhood. Many homes have well-kept gardens. But now it's a mess. When Maria hit, heavy rain and river flooding caused the water to rise quickly here. Many who stayed behind had to be rescued from their rooftops. Outside one home, Ivonne Cora was adding to a growing pile of debris - mattresses, sofas, clothing, household goods, all soaked and ruined by the flood.
IVONNE CORA: So we are inside the house. The tiles?
ALLEN: They cracked.
ALLEN: Some of them are broken in half.
CORA: And you see here, the sofa. And the water came here.
(SOUNBITE OF COCKATIELS CHIRPING)
ALLEN: This is her mother, Nilda Cora's, home. Her three cockatiels are also survivors of the storm. The water was over 3 feet here, destroying appliances, furniture, carpeting and leaving a strong smell of mildew. Like many elderly, Nilda Cora paid off her mortgage years ago and doesn't have homeowner's or flood insurance. At 82 years of age, Ivonne Cora doesn't know if her mother will ever be able to come back.
CORA: My mother, actually, she is very affected, crying and crying. So I think that she's not going to - to come back again.
ALLEN: Throughout Toa Baja, many houses not flooded were devastated by Maria's high winds. Roofs are gone. Walls are missing. Utility poles lean at crazy angles. Cars have to maneuver around drooping power lines. Many whose homes were flooded or destroyed by high winds are staying in five shelters in Toa Baja. City official Edgar Gomez is helping staff a center collecting donations of food, water and clothing.
EDGAR GOMEZ: We have here all the donations from people on the island. We have food, all kind of breads. And also towels, sheets for the bed. So we can at least send bread and water to the people.
ALLEN: So far, all the aid received here is from people and businesses on the island. Gomez says no aid has reached Toa Baja from FEMA, the Red Cross or other relief groups.
GOMEZ: We need them. We need them to go to the communities that are - are needed.
ALLEN: Gomez says after a week, FEMA and other groups have just finished rescues. Crews, he says, are now ready to begin the next phase, helping people recover. Greg Allen, NPR News, Toa Baja, Puerto Rico.
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