Puerto Rico | KERA News

Puerto Rico

If all goes well, people on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands could have power restored next week for the first time since a pair of devastating Category 5 hurricanes struck in September, the local electric utility says.

"Portions of St. John are scheduled to be restored by the middle of next week," says Jean P. Greaux, Jr., communications director for Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority.

On a scale of 1 to 10, President Trump said Thursday that his administration deserves a "10" for its response to the devastation caused on Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria.

Trump spoke after his meeting in the Oval Office with the U.S. territory's governor, Ricardo Rossello, who — when asked by Trump "did we do a great job?" — said, "You responded immediately, sir."

"We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders" in Puerto Rico "forever," President Trump said Thursday, hinting at a possible limit on federal aid to the island territory where 3.4 million Americans have struggled to recover from two destructive hurricanes.

Here are the president's comments on the issue, compressed from three consecutive tweets:

More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, the island's power grid remains in shambles, and authorities say it will take months to fully restore electricity.

Nearly 90 percent of the island is still without power, which means millions of people remain without electricity weeks after the storm, says José H. Román Morales, president of Puerto Rico's Energy Commission, which regulates the island's electric power authority.

Updated at 8:24 p.m. ET

President Trump traveled Tuesday to devastated Puerto Rico following his administration's maligned response to Hurricane Maria. But as soon as he stepped off the plane, the president was in a self-congratulatory mood.

In a hurricane briefing Trump praised his Cabinet, contrasted the devastation with "a real catastrophe like [Hurricane] Katrina," threw in an aside about how much Puerto Rico recovery was costing the U.S., and later was filmed throwing paper towels into a crowd as part of efforts to distribute supplies.

Updated 1 p.m. ET Saturday

President Trump heads to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico on Tuesday and, in a series of tweets early Saturday morning, defended his administration's handling of the recovery effort while hitting back at Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan.

"The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump," he wrote.

From Texas Standard:

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a lot of Puerto Ricans are setting their sights on becoming Texans. Because Puerto Rico is a territory of the U.S., its citizens are American citizens, too – free to locate anywhere in the country they wish.

Danny Bollinger / Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea watched in horror as Hurricane Maria tore through his home island of Puerto Rico. He had to do something.

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it has temporarily waived a U.S. shipping restriction for Puerto Rico known as the Jones Act.

Under the law, only U.S.-flagged ships are allowed to move goods between any U.S. ports. Now foreign-flagged vessels also will be able to move shipments from the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico and between ports there. The move is intended to boost the delivery of much-needed relief supplies after Hurricane Maria battered the U.S. territory last week.

The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration thanked President Trump in a tweet:

Much-needed supplies are either in Puerto Rico or on the way, officials say, but the island's governor acknowledges that they can't deliver fuel and other material quickly enough. Frustrated residents face long lines for fuel, as millions of people have gone nearly a week without power.

"We need resources and security. We need a quicker logistical deployment," Gov. Ricardo Rossello told NPR's Mary Louise Kelly on Tuesday. "You know, the gas and fuel issue is not a matter of how much do we have — it's a matter of how we can distribute it."

In a tiny sliver of shade, on a hill next to Puerto Rico's Route 65, Kiara Rodriguez de Jesus waves a sparkly pink hand fan to keep cool.

"I trust in God," she says. "Please, come the gas."

Along with her family, parked in a Volvo SUV, she has been in line for gasoline since 3 a.m., she says. Now it's after 1:30 p.m. And like everyone else at this gas station, she has no idea how much longer she'll be waiting.

Officials continued to urge tens of thousands of people living downstream from a precarious, slowly failing dam in northwestern Puerto Rico to evacuate Saturday. But the U.S. territory's severely compromised communications infrastructure meant it was not immediately clear how successful the warnings would be.

Compounding Puerto Rico's devastation in the wake of Hurricane Maria is the fact that so much is still unknown. Because most of the island's cellphone sites are out of service and the power grid is down, it has been difficult or impossible to connect with the people who live there — whether from the mainland or from another part of the island.

Atlanta resident Silkia Babilonia, who lives in Atlanta, says that since the storm, she hasn't been able to reach friends and family on the island's west side.

Back-to-back natural disasters in Mexico and across the Caribbean have left millions of people reeling.