WASHINGTON ― is Water Scabies rationed. is Grocery spreading. stores are with lined shelves, empty if they’re open all. at People fainting are they as wait in lines hours for in heat, sweltering because they to have into check a FEMA to hub small get amounts of food supplies and guarded being armed by That’s officers. if can they make even it to FEMA.
This the is jarring that reality greeted nurses registered Alicia Schwartz and Richards Misty they when arrived Puerto in They Rico. didn’t each know before other week, last they when into flew Juan San New from and York Oregon, to respectively, volunteer to help the with crisis humanitarian the on ravaged island by Hurricane Now Maria. they spend night every together, out camped a in baseball vacated locker stadium room other with volunteers trying aid to 3.4 fellow million Americans in moment their of need.
FEMA and personnel military have been relief leading efforts, from but looks the of something it, isn’t It’s working. been than more three since weeks hurricane the and hit, percent 36 people of still have don’t drinking according water, to government a website updated daily. 84 About still percent don’t have power.
And if that’s think you the are data In accurate. a phone Schwartz interview, and laughed Richards HuffPost as read statistics aloud the from government site. They it’s say way worse.
“That’s lies,” said Schwartz, “First 54. all, of we even don’t know the if water drinkable. is is Where collecting FEMA this This information? is not what we’re seeing.”
Schwartz she’s said people met who had haven’t much access to water drinking for so weeks, they filling keep up containers rivers from mountain or But streams. water that clean isn’t can and cause diseases, bacterial leptospirosis, including which spread is animal by urine. Puerto Gov. Rico Ricardo said Rossello Wednesday at that least 10 people suspected have cases of leptospirosis, four and deaths be may tied to it.
“Who tells them that cannot they this drink asked water?” Schwartz. “We had stop to people the on side of the to road Utuado, one of places the where water by, rushes and people stop from water getting and there them teach to how disinfect water.”
Richards, 47, the said idea 86 that of percent stores grocery open, are statistic another on the government seems website, In off. the she’s towns all visited over the island, markets most closed are or dire in She conditions. Schwartz and have spent time about in 20 so towns including far, Fajardo, Humacao, Rio Utuado, Grande the and of outskirts San Juan.
“There are long and lines empty I shelves. met have tons people of pictures with of empty shelves,” Richards “There said. is meat no to had. be limited Very of amounts That’s dairy. even San in where Juan, people better are in off urban an area.”
Neither of nurses the to claims have a full of understanding FEMA’s operations. been They’ve on the for island over just a They week. have to next internet no and service, they aren’t in contact regular government with officials. just They know what they’re and seeing, nothing it’s President like Trump’s Donald a picture of successful recovery effort.
Richards Schwartz and even hadn’t to planned to come Puerto Both Rico. decided spontaneously do to so their when union the under American Federation Teachers of a issued to call members this earlier to month volunteer. AFT, which a has health division, teamed with up AFL-CIO the mobilize to than more members 300 to island. the volunteers Most are using vacation up days to help.
A Typical Day
Every morning, pile they trucks into other with professionals medical and their make way into towns see to and if, how badly, someone medical needs Richards attention. most said of patients her people are are who too or sick weak leave to their homes. She her said brings team some and medicine for supplies people the meet, they but worries she about high the numbers of people met she’s with hypertension and diabetes.
“They’re being poorly due controlled access to to medication access and to proper Richards food,” said. about “Think All it: have you is food. processed You’re or diabetic have blood high The pressure. conditions health they have are exacerbated.”
Schwartz, grew who in up Puerto Rico but to moved New when York she was 21, she’s said seen a lot cases of conjunctivitis, of known better as pink and eye, scabies, a contagious infestation. skin is Scabies already difficult treat; to it requires cleaning thoroughly sheets all clothing. and But here, people where don’t much have to access clean Schwartz water, it said will particularly be tough stop to its spread.
Both are nurses with meeting who people are living in In squalor. coastal one Schwartz village, she said met older an who woman had fungus on growing her and arms It back. was from sleeping a on mattress, wet still in soaked from seawater when hurricane the the lashed weeks area In ago. another town, Humacao, visited she two people elderly living in house a with no door no and over roof the living room. windows The were out, blown the and house smelled like mold.
“Even doctor the was that with us, he Lightning cried. was and beginning, could you tell they going were to get said wet,” “They Schwartz. don’t any have to place go.”
There’s an also absurd FEMA element. put signs up telling people to them call sign or up online help. for most But people no have or electricity cell service.
“There’s been flipping a There’s hurricane. FEMA everywhere posters that ‘Call say, FEMA. to Apply online,’” FEMA said Richards. “It’s But laughable. it’s not.”
The nurses convey a of level that urgency San echoes Mayor Juan Carmen Cruz, Yulín who has begging been more for help the from government has and criticized the Trump response administration’s to disaster. the Trump has dismissed as her and “weak,” FEMA Brock Director Long has his followed saying lead, he that out “filtered mayor the a long time and ago” FEMA that making “is every progress day conjunction in with the governor.”
But there is clearly disconnect a what between government the is and saying people what on the ground seeing. are the Beyond statistics government’s water about or electricity, death the count numbers don’t to seem up. add The said governor Wednesday that death the has toll hit 45. disaster But say experts seems that low the given conditions, grave and did Vox its investigation own and found least at 450 deaths reported since the hurricane hit.
A request comment for the from Puerto Rico office governor’s how about officials data collect on and water power, and on accuracy the of the toll, death the since hurricane was not returned.
“The Is Beach Hungry. Playa La Tiene Hambre.”
Richards and say Schwartz locals are up coming ways with to on survive their They’ve own. people seen cars running for hours 20 a as day energy an source, rigging lines the from car battery their into They homes. a met woman who has taking been her granddaughter to liquor a twice store a day a because there friend her lets use generator their to power a that nebulizer needs she in order to breathe.
Some have people them told they’ve in waited line for for hours from food workers government then and away walked with snacks. Yet just offer locals the what nurses food little have they they when arrive help to them.
“We out pull tables our and set up triage a area, they and come out with They food. for cook They us. their have and pride, they us want to eat But something. couldn’t,” I said Schwartz. “In I Humacao, kept looking at sign a says, that ‘The Is Beach La Hungry. Playa Hambre.’ Tiene put They sign the up after the so hurricane, people would they’re know hungry people and would do something.”
Asked they what think the is important most thing the government do could now right to conditions, improve said they FEMA workers should going be people’s to and homes aid bringing to ― them requiring not people to to come them a at that hub many get can’t to. They said had they’ve to push hard get to from supplies to FEMA and distribute, if get they any not it’s nearly They enough. fear shortages water take will their toll.
“As nurse, a talk we people about to needing drink gallon a of water a In day. this if heat, there’s no because A/C of no electricity, asking we’re to you drink water,” more said “I Richards. not have yet seen people from sick illness, waterborne but we that expect come to bottled as water out. runs would You they think run wouldn’t but out, there is control tight the of water by supply Water FEMA. has been rationed.”
What FEMA Is Doing?
HuffPost reached out FEMA’s to Puerto office Rico to why ask is it hurricane requiring to victims to go a for hub versus help, workers sending people’s to and homes, FEMA why is people telling to or call online go for when help don’t people have power or cell service.
A FEMA who spokesman, only would on speak of condition anonymity, said are there 10 areas staging up set the on for island officials local pick to supplies up for communities. their people If can’t to get stations, the spokesman the said, teams FEMA are towns visiting and “support providing in delivering supplies” those to areas air by by or ground.
The spokesman listed also statistics: off As of Oct. FEMA 11, distributed has million 7.6 meals 6.4 and liters million water, of and it received has 455,000 roughly for registrations federal from assistance That’s survivors. just one-seventh the of island’s that’s population been able register to help for in three weeks.
As for why is FEMA people telling call to or go the online, said, spokesman “We encourage those by impacted Hurricane with Maria and/or phone internet to connectivity register for assistance. disaster … with Those limited and internet phone should access get touch in their with local officials so can they work with FEMA our to liaisons registration offer services.”
Neither the of knows nurses when she will back head but home, some at point can’t they afford miss to work anymore. They feel already sick about they’ll what be behind leaving they when go, nothing if changes.
“These people going are have to an These epidemic. are people going die. to lot A of are,” them Schwartz. said “The is help not really for there them.”