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Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria

After Hurricane Maria's wrath, people are still desperate to contact their families in Puerto Rico


Kevin Montes, a senior at St. Bonaventure University, doesn't recognize the damage-stricken Puerto Rico he'd visited in August, just weeks before Hurricane Maria whipped the island, leaving at least 15 people dead.

"I was just sitting in school saying my prayers," Montes told Circa over Skype from his dorm room in New York.

Montes' family is from Bucarabones, a small town just outside of San Juan. He said after the island lost 100% of its electricity, his family couldn't get in touch with anyone for three days.

"It was nerve-racking and you feel useless and you just kind of feel stuck," he said. "That's just the best way to put it. You feel stuck."

Dozens of hours and countless prayers later, Montes' grandmother on the mainland was finally able to get in touch with his cousin, a police officer, in Puerto Rico via Facebook.

He says he feels blessed to have learned that all of his relatives are safe, but it pains him to see Puerto Rico as it is now.

Montes' family, like so many others throughout the Caribbean, is dealing with massive flooding inside of their homes and lack of supplies.

When asked about the administration's efforts to help those affected by Maria, Montes said more needs to be done.

"(The President is) more worried about things that's going on in the NFL than talking about this problem that we have in Puerto Rico."
Kevin Montes, St. Bonaventure University '18

No electricity, no water, no food.

The island has no power, little access to water and a dwindling food supply. Some have called the images coming out of the island "apocalyptic."

Officials in Puerto Rico said the devastation will set the island back nearly 20 to 30 years.

Meanwhile, Montes and those who have yet to hear from their relatives are frustrated that the government isn't providing its citizens more support.

"I don't think the President has done enough to speak out," he said. "He's more worried about things that's going on in the NFL than talking about this problem that we have in Puerto Rico."

President Trump has received heavy criticism on social media for spending more time talking about football players kneeling during the National Anthem than he has about the millions of American citizens struggling to survive on U.S. territory.

Trump's first tweet on Puerto Rico was to say: "be careful, our hearts are with you- will be there to help!"

Some users have even gone so far as to keep tabs on the number of times Trump's tweeted about Puerto Rico versus the NFL.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that the administration has "done unprecedented movement in terms of federal funding to provide for the people of Puerto Rico" and that members of the administration traveled to Puerto Rico to "assess the damage."

The power of social media

In desperation, many citizens have turned to social media and other services to get in touch with their loved ones.

Over the weekend, Google activated its Person Finder service and its Crisis Map for people to find refuge on the island. (Here are other ways families can get in contact with relatives in Puerto Rico)

"Anyone have family in Puerto Rico near Fajardo? Have you heard from them? We lost communication with my grandma over 30 hours ago," a friend shared to Facebook in search of "mental peace."

Something Omar Alvarez, a software engineer in Silicon Valley, is in the process of finding himself.

Alvarez has family spread throughout Puerto Rico. He says out of all his relatives living on the island only one has made contact with relatives on the mainland.

He says his main concern is what will take place over the next few weeks.

"We've got a couple of elderly in the family that need medication and some of that medication needs to be refrigerated and with no power there's no way to refrigerate things," he told Circa.

He says it won't be long before supplies run out and people start to get desperate, which is why now is the time to act before it gets to that point.

"They are Americans and they are depending on us and right now it just feels like we're letting them down."

Trump was supposed to visit Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands last week after Hurricane Irma, but his trip was delayed once Maria set its sights on the islands.

Related stories from across Circa:

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How is the United States handling the aftermath of Hurricane Maria?

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