Locals struggle to get information on loved ones in Puerto Rico

Locals struggle to get information on loved ones in Puerto Rico

September 29th, 2017 by Rosana Hughes in Local Regional News

In this Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017 photo, Maribel Valentin Espino sits in her hurricane-destroyed home in Montebello, Puerto Rico. Espino and her husband say they have not seen anyone from the Puerto Rican government, much less the Federal Emergency Management Agency, since the storm tore up the island. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Photo by The Associated Press /Times Free Press.

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For some local Puerto Ricans, communication with family members is limited or nonexistent, even a week after Hurricane Maria ripped through the island.

Jordan Adams, a student at Southern Adventist University, said he and his family members on the U.S. mainland have not heard from their family in Puerto Rico at all. He said there are some people in one of his classes who have family there as well, but only a few have been able to make contact.

"My grandmother knows the family members there, so my mom has been using my grandmother to try to get communication going, trying to figure out, 'Are they OK?' What's going on, what's the status?" he said.

He said communication has been an uphill battle, "with more going downhill than up."

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For Xavier Cotto, a six-year Chattanooga resident and Puerto Rico native, communication has been better. He said he's been able to talk to his family recently, but it's difficult without power.

"Luckily, most of my family lives in the metropolitan area, so all of the communications are still there," he said, adding that power outages have forced his family to use a generator to charge their phones to be able to stay in touch.

He said the few people who have signal are "posting crazy stuff" on Facebook, and "those of us here on the mainland are going nuts trying to find ways to send help."

"What you're seeing on the news is pretty accurate, from what everyone down there is reporting," he said.

Cotto said his grandmother has been trying to get on an airplane to Florida as soon as possible.

"So she can kind of get to safety," he said, "with violence getting crazy with people trying to steal generators and stealing gas. The days keep passing, and people keep getting more desperate."

He said water and power are concerns, but "people would be fine if it wasn't for the other safety concerns that come with people just trying to survive."

Adams said he's kind of irritated that it took eight days for the president to waive the Jones Act to aid in getting supplies to the people who need them. Cotto echoed his sentiment.

"I know it takes a while, I know it takes a lot of planning," he said, "but I think it could have been quicker. You saw how everything with Hurricane Harvey happened. How quickly everyone responded. It was like a day or two after."

Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327.