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Power Outages Persist In Hurricane Devastated Puerto Rico

Sep 25, 2017
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

OK. We want to check back now with the people of Puerto Rico, who are experiencing massive and persistent power outages as they try and recover from Hurricane Maria. NPR's Camila Domonoske is in San Juan and joins us on the line. And what does the city of San Juan look like?

CAMILA DOMONOSKE, BYLINE: You know, roofs are mangled. There's still debris everywhere. And branches are bare. It was really striking. You picture an aerial view of Puerto Rico. It's a tropical island.

GREENE: Yeah.

DOMONOSKE: It's green, right? From the sky, as we were approaching San Juan, the coastline was brown. The branches are just totally denuded. Trees are still down. Some of them are completely blocking roads. There's still flooding. Shops are shuttered. I mean, everyday life is at a halt. People are standing in long lines for small amounts of gas. And this is really good compared to the conditions in some other parts of the island where the hurricane hit more directly.

GREENE: This is just amazing, that we're days away. I mean, this is the kind of scene you expect, like, just hours after a hurricane came through.

DOMONOSKE: Yeah. And when you look at the power outages, those are expected to continue for not just days but weeks, even months. People are bracing for this to last for a really long time. And, you know, that affects water pumps, food storage, medicine every part of everyday life. And places that have generators are still running. But a lot of people don't have generators. I was talking to one guy, Jose Nieves (ph), who said that so many people are now looking for generators.

JOSE NIEVES: After this aftermath, I think everybody in Puerto Rico's going to have a generator (laughter). I don't think anybody's going to go through this - no power - again.

DOMONOSKE: And, you know, he's laughing.

GREENE: Yeah.

DOMONOSKE: He's making light there. But this is a really serious point that he's making - that nobody wants to go through this ever again. It's just so hard to cope without some sort of power supply. And, again - I just - this is expected to last not days but for an extremely long period of time.

GREENE: Is that the kind of feel on the island, that, I mean, it's so dire that you just look for moments to laugh or make light of a situation that's incredibly difficult and painful?

DOMONOSKE: Yeah. A lot of people are, you know, expressing great resilience, enormous amounts of patience, some humor.

GREENE: And Camila, let me just ask you - with the power down, I gather communication has just been a huge issue for people on that island. I mean, there must be a feeling of being totally cut off.

DOMONOSKE: It's a tremendous issue - and not just elsewhere in the world but elsewhere in Puerto Rico, people who are also on the island. You know, here in San Juan, you have people desperately trying to contact relatives in the U.S. to tell them that they're OK and also trying to reach their own relatives here in Puerto Rico and other areas to know if they're OK. And for a long time, there was no service whatsoever on the island. Now there's some very limited, very spotty service. People are driving up to an hour and a half to try to get a signal. There's an expressway on the northern part of the island where people go to try to get service because they know it's sometimes there. We went there, and we talked to Naomi Soler (ph). She drove there with her mom, Damaris Varela (ph). They came from RC boats nearly an hour to try to get a signal. But they still couldn't get connected. Soler told me who she was trying to reach.

NAOMI SOLER: (Speaking Spanish).

DOMONOSKE: Her dad and her grandmother in Florida, her boyfriend in New York. She just wants to tell them that she's OK. So Naomi Soler's dad, grandma and boyfriend, if you're listening, she's OK. But this is happening all over - people on the island trying to get word out. But it's just incredibly difficult. And, meanwhile, their family on the mainland is worried because they can't get any updates, any word.

GREENE: Yeah, I'm sure they are. Well, Naomi's family, I hope you heard that. Camila Domonoske is in San Juan reporting on the aftermath of the hurricane. Thanks a lot.

DOMONOSKE: Yeah, thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF JESSE COOK'S "AFTERNOON AT SATIE'S" Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.