If you’ve visited Puerto Rico in the past, you wouldn’t recognize the United States territory after Hurricane Maria, said Carolinas Healthcare System nurses who traveled there to help in the relief effort.
Trees are barren, many knocked down blocking roadways. Airplanes are flipped over and power lines are down everywhere, said nurse Dave Marlin, who worked for a week with Carolinas HealthCare’s MedCenter Air crew.
The crew has transported nine hospital patients and 12 FEMA officials to and from the United States, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and St. Croix, according to Carolinas HealthCare.
President Donald Trump plans to visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday. Trump has been criticized by officials in Puerto Rico for a slow response in the area, waiting days after the storm hit on Sept. 20 to waive the Jones Act to allow supplies to be delivered more quickly.
Last week, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said the Trump administration is “killing us with the inefficiency” after Hurricane Maria, according to the Associated Press. Trump said in a tweet that there has been “such poor leadership ability” by Cruz and other officials.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico struggles to recover from the natural disasters.
There is a “raw-sewage-type smell” because there is no running water, said Ashley Ezzell, who also worked as a nurse on the night shift with the MedCenter Air crew.
Both nurses said that nearly everyone either lost their home or has a neighbor who did.
And there are lines of people waiting for gasoline at gas station or waiting for food or for water.
Finding cellphone service is another challenge.
Marlin recalled traveling 55 miles per hour on a highway and cars in front would slam on their breaks, stopping for a weak cellphone signal.
When people would get a dot on their cellphone, indicating a notch of cellphone service, people would pull over. Ten to 15 cars would be on the side of the interstate, trying to make a phone call, Marlin said.