Puerto Ricans rely on each other while waiting for aid

At a news conference in San Juan on Friday morning, one U.S. official after another acknowledged that the aid response appears sluggish. “It’s not nearly as fast as everybody wants us to do,” said John Rabin, regional director of FEMA, blaming the comprehensive damage of the fifth-most-powerful hurricane ever to strike the U.S.

Addressing the containers of private aid piling up at the port, Gov. Ricardo Rossello said the government would buy their contents and distribute them—though the U.S. official in charge of coordinating the federal response said that the supply chains required to do so have yet to be established.

The spirit of community does stand out here. Police appear to be where they need to be: directing traffic under darkened traffic lights, or, in a Mad Max touch, escorting tanker trucks bearing precious gasoline to the stations where cars queue for blocks, their drivers often waiting five hours to fill up. But where an immediate need appears, ordinary people step right up, taking charge of traffic outside one of the few open supermarkets or acting as flaggers around streets blocked by debris (which, after more than a week, is taking the shape of manageable piles). “Together As One” was the message painted onto a tattered Puerto Rican flag draped over a shuttered hotel in San Juan.

It’s the government response that appears to be lagging. For all the aid arriving on the island—and the hundreds of officials that have turned the San Juan convention center into an air-conditioned beehive—it is very hard to find any out in the countryside. In a four-hour drive around the island’s northeast section, a reporter saw only a truck dispensing potable water and just two crews from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

The aftermath has not been great either. Pagan and his wife have pushed household belongings into the street like garbage, and he worries the factory where he works, which was badly damaged, might not re-open.

Charitable Foundation Winston Churchill collects money to provide necessary medical assistance to the victims after the hurricane in Puerto Rico. Donate

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