Puerto Ricans still waiting for aid a week after Maria's devastation



Puerto Rico's governor said officials were working to get food, fuel and water "everywhere on the island" as millions of people continued to suffer without the basics and reports emerged of vital supplies stranded at Puerto Rico's main port.

About 97% of the US commonwealth's 3.4 million residents were still in the dark Wednesday, one week after Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said. About half the residents do not have running water.

Puerto Ricans are waiting hours in line to get gas, food and cash. Gas stations and supermarkets are rationing supplies, while banks are running low on cash.

"Right now we are in emergency mode," Rosselló said on Wednesday afternoon. "Our focus is not necessarily restoring energy. The energy grid has been destroyed. ... And we need to rebuild it. That does not get rebuilt in days."

Asked if he thought the federal government was doing everything it can to help the island, Rosselló said, "Well, they are. This is an unprecedented event. President Trump has been in close communication with me practically every day making sure we have the assets, giving orders to his team so that they can execute."

The governor said getting aid where it's needed has been a challenge because of the magnitude of the destruction on the island.

"This has been the biggest catastrophe in the history Puerto Rico in terms of natural disasters," he said.

Critics said the government's aid effort could be improved if Washington lifted the Jones Act, an obscure, nearly 100-year-old law that requires all goods ferried between US ports to be carried on ships built, owned and operated by Americans. The law had the unintended consequence of making it more expensive to ship things from the US mainland to Puerto Rico. Trump said Wednesday "we're thinking" about lifting the Jones Act for Puerto Rican ports in the wake of Hurricane Maria, but he said a "lot of shippers" don't want it lifted.

Rosselló said he had not asked the President to lift the Jones Act so aid might flow more fully to Puerto Rico. "I did not solicit that to him personally but it is something that would help Puerto Rico, certainly, at least in the short run," Rosselló said.

As desperate Puerto Ricans wait for aid, there's not enough food to go around. In the town of Utuado, Lydia Rivera has started to ration crackers and drink rainwater to keep her two grandchildren alive.

"No water, no food," Rivera told CNN.

The hurricane killed 16 people in Puerto Rico, 27 in the island nation of Dominica and one in the US Virgin Islands. As Puerto Rico attempts to recover from the disaster, there were signs that aid sent from the US mainland isn't making it to people in need. And the US recovery efforts in Puerto Rico have been markedly different from the recent responses to other Americans in hurricane-stricken Texas and Florida.