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After 2 weeks without power in Puerto Rico, eating candy for dinner is the new norm

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When Hurricane Maria made landfall in Naguabo, Puerto Rico, bringing with it sustained winds of up to 155 mph, the zinc roof that Luis Martes had built for his family was ripped to shreds.

"It was like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life," Martes said.

"The wind was so strong that we couldn’t open the doors. We couldn’t get out."
Luis Martes

Martes, the town's former police commissioner, says he and his family of eight are in dire need of food and basic supplies. To run a generator, he's burning through what's left of his savings. Fuel, he says, costs him $20 a day.

“It’s a lot of expenses, and there’s no help. Every day it’s getting worse,” Martes said.

When President Trump made his first visit to the U.S. territory earlier this week, he praised both the federal and local response to the Category 4 storm that struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 20 as "incredible" and "unbelievable."

“It’s now acknowledged what a great job we’ve done,” Trump said speaking at a briefing at shortly after his arrival.

But outside the capital of San Juan, where distributing aid remains a major challenge, residents described a different set of circumstances.

"Nobody’s come here and or asked us how we are."
Lisa Quinones
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At a gas station in Ceiba, about two dozen people wait in the sweltering heat for a bag of ice. Lisa Quinones says she’s been in line since 5 a.m.

“We'll wait here until 2, 3, 4, 5 in the afternoon. Nobody tells us if the ice is going to arrive or not.”

Quinones says the government rations she's received today — six bottles of water, two cans of sausages and candy — are not enough to feed her large household.

“Candy, it’s not going to take away the hunger. It’s just going to make us thirsty."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Puerto Rican National Guard and local officials are working to deliver supplies to remote parts of the island, Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rosselló said.

But residents here say the relief isn't coming fast enough.

"We need tarps for the houses. My [roof] has sunk. It's been 16 days. We're still waiting for FEMA," Naguabo resident Ricardo Agosta said.

Compounding the problem is the lack of communication.

Much of Puerto Rico is still completely without power, and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) says it could be several more months before it's fully restored.

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On Wednesday, the Department of Defense said only 5.4 percent of citizens have internet and 12.1 percent have cell service. Unable to pick up the phone or read the news, there's simply no way for most in these rural communities to know when a new round of rations arrives in their town.

Martes, like many in Naguabo, feels like he's been left to his own devices while he waits for assistance from the government. Still, he stresses, things could be worse.

"Being alive is the most important thing. The rest we'll figure out," said Martes.

See related stories from Puerto Rico:
Maria wiped out 80% of Puerto Rico’s crops. This farmer is keeping things in perspective.
No roofs, no relief and constant rain: rebuilding Puerto Rico's isolated mountain towns
The US general overseeing Maria relief: 'If I were a Puerto Rican, I wouldn’t be satisfied'

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