Living Without Power, Water Or Internet In Puerto Rico

Sep 30, 2017
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In one day last week, Hurricane Maria turned life in Puerto Rico back a hundred years. Many people are now living day to day with no power or clean running water and, in many places, no phone or Internet. NPR's Greg Allen has been talking to people about how they're adjusting to the new realities.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: In Puerto Rico, there are lots of lines now - lines at gas stations, lines at banks, even at some stores. In San Juan's Condado section, there was a line of people outside a casino, but the casino was closed. They were there for the bank of electric outlets, a rare place where they could recharge their laptops and especially cellphones.

MARY DELANEY: Yeah, I was going from hotel to hotel just finding any place. But the generators now are being shut off during the day because they're running out of gas. So they can't keep them going all the time.

ALLEN: Mary Delaney has lived in Puerto Rico 21 years teaching English as a second language. Since Maria, she said even simple things, like going to the store or to the bank, have become difficult.

DELANEY: I did just get a text from my sister-in-law saying that the banks may be running out of money so to go to the bank immediately and get out as much as I can.

ALLEN: That's because some stores are open here in San Juan, but many aren't taking credit cards. This area, Condado, wasn't hit as hard as some other areas, and it now has some of the best cellular phone service on the island. That's why Julio Colon, a 40-year-old DJ and theatrical light designer, walked here from the Santurce neighborhood 20 minutes away.

JULIO COLON: I did have some signal late last night. It woke me up, my messages coming in. But that was about it. When I tried to respond to them, I couldn't. So...

ALLEN: And was that the first from the storm?

COLON: Since Irma. Like, we've been hit by two hurricanes in a row.

ALLEN: Jorge Amill says without power, you lose another service that for some is even more vital, the Internet.

JORGE AMILL: Now without Internet, you can't connect with other people. You can't work. You know, it's all about that.

ALLEN: Amill is one of millions of people here still with no running water, but he's learning to adapt.

AMILL: You shower in friends' houses and stuff.

ALLEN: Right. Right. So if you had your choice, would you take the cellphone first or the water back first?

AMILL: The water (laughter) - the water, definitely.

ALLEN: Just checking, you know.

Amill has a flight already booked to go visit family in New York. He plans to stay at least a month while Puerto Rico gets back on its feet. That's something you hear a lot. DJ Julio Colon has also decided to go back to New York but has told his landlady to hold his apartment here.

COLON: I want to keep my life here. I want to be part of what's going on here. I want to be part of reconstruction. But people need to eat. And I do believe that other people need the aid more than I do.

ALLEN: Amill and Colon say they'll be back when the power returns - maybe in October, maybe November, maybe later.

Greg Allen, NPR News, San Juan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.