In Puerto Rico's Interior, Hurricane Maria Cut A Community Off From The World

Oct 15, 2017
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in late September, and nearly all the island is still without power. In remote parts of the island, some communities are just now digging out from the storm's destruction.

NPR's Adrian Florido visited one of those communities yesterday and joins us now. Good morning.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And I hear you drove an hour and a half from the capital to visit a hard-hit area of the island. And what - where did you go, and what did you see?

FLORIDO: So we visited a little barrio called Marta de Cana (ph), which is smack in the middle of Puerto Rico in a mountainous region. It's a community, a very small community of about 150 families. The thing about Marta de Cana and other towns like it in this region is that after the hurricane, you know, the narrow winding road that leads up the mountain to this town was rendered completely impassable because of mudslides and rockslides and fallen trees and that sort of debris. And so it's taken weeks for residents and volunteers to clear the way, and they only did that in the last few days. So we tagged along with a convoy of nurses and doctors and volunteers who are visiting to deliver aid.

MONTAGNE: And when you got to the town, I mean, what did you find they needed the most?

FLORIDO: So Marta de Cana's a community that, like - a lot of the island has lost all electricity, all running water. But because of the road obstructions, just basic relief like water and food is just now arriving in significant quantities, right? There have been a few deliveries of water and food by government choppers over the last couple of weeks, but these have been arriving in very limited quantities so people have been than rationing the supplies. So that's one big need. Another, as I mentioned was that, you know, we went with a group of nurses and doctors. And that's because some of the community's residents have actually quite serious medical conditions. And, again, because the road has been blocked, they haven't been able to get into town to refill prescriptions for several weeks. This is something that really concerned Dr. Jessica Torres, who came from a hospital in the capital, San Juan.

JESSICA TORRES: Right. They really need is the medical pills. That's what they're really missing, OK? So we're going to try to find some, speak to any pharmaceutical that can help us with that and then bring them back.

MONTAGNE: And, Adrian, considering how hard it's been for large cities, like San Juan, to get basic services restored, I imagine towns like this one that you went to have an even longer slog ahead.

FLORIDO: They really do, Renee. I mean, no one here expects power to be restored before next spring. So months away in this little town, Marta de Cana. Obviously, a lack of running water for that long could be really devastating and - so doctors are concerned about a bunch of things. One of them is the potential for diseases to spread if people start resorting to the use of untreated water from springs and creeks nearby for drinking. And then there's - again, the issue of roads is a very huge concern. The hurricane really destabilized the mountainsides here. So even though the road into the Marta de Cana is now passable, it's been raining pretty much every day. And so that's been triggering these smaller mudslides and fallen trees that continue to impede traffic.

MONTAGNE: All right. NPR's Adrian Florido, thanks very much.

FLORIDO: Thanks, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.