SAN JUAN – My first
thought was for my own family. When Hurricane Maria took aim at the
already Hurricane Irma-battered island commonwealth of Puerto Rico, I
was filled with despair. “How much can these poor people take?”
After being raked by two Category 4 and Category 5 storms in just two
weeks, the already shaky island infrastructure has been essentially
taken off-line. There is no electrical power here, except what people
are able to make with their generators. Those generators need diesel or
gasoline to work, and that fuel is in desperately short supply.
The lines at the stations that have gasoline are ridiculously long. The
wait exceeds six hours. Vehicles are running out of fuel as they wait
their turn to buy only $20 worth. Without fuel to power their
generators, people cannot access fresh water. Without water, there are
no toilets. Without toilets in the hot and humid conditions that exist
here…you get the bleak picture. This is a monumental human and
environmental disaster unfolding right before our eyes.
Touring the island yesterday was a bleak, deeply depressing experience.
The usually lush vegetation has been scorched by the ferocious winds
that gusted at times over 160 mph. Windows have been blown out of luxury
condominiums. More humble dwellings have been stripped of their roofs.
The leisure fleets of sail and motorboats that usually attract tourists
the world over have been wrecked.
geraldo family 3
Geraldo Rivera after he reunited with his family in Puerto Rico. He said
touring the island was a bleak, depressing experience.
I just don’t know how the various governments can bring this island back
on-line. Cellphone towers have been knocked down. Trees and power lines
are savaged by the storm. Seventy percent of the 3.4 million residents
of Puerto Rico were already out of power from Irma, and now Maria has
blasted through, eliminating the rest of the already shaky power grid.
Only an approach like the Marshall Plan that resurrected Europe in the
wake of World War II can save this place known as La Isla del Encanto,
the island of enchantment. Bring in the aircraft carriers; import
thousands of generators. Recruit linemen from around the United States
to rally to the cause of their fellow U.S. citizens. The need is dire.
People walk next to a gas station flooded and damaged by the impact of
Hurricane Maria, which hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao,
Puerto Rico, Wednesday, September 20, 2017. The strongest hurricane to
hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years destroyed hundreds of homes,
knocked out power across the entire island and turned some streets into
raging rivers in an onslaught that could plunge the U.S. territory
deeper into financial crisis. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)Slideshow
Photos: Puerto Rico hammered by Hurricane Maria
Maria leaves Puerto Rico in rubble as storm heads for Dominican Republic
I wept with relief and concern when I visited my family in the same
house I lived in as a 15-year-old when our grandparents were alive. But
they face the dilemma shared by millions: There is no power and no
running water; the schools are closed and businesses disrupted.
Deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis spreading over this
corner of America, the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosello, told me
this morning, “the magnitude of the devastation is unprecedented. The
infrastructure has been severely damaged. The people of Puerto Rico need
the funding that is appropriate to attend to this situation as U.S.
Please keep Puerto Rico in your thoughts and prayers. Remember our
fellow citizens in need.
Geraldo Rivera currently serves as a roaming correspondent-at-large for
Fox News Channel. He joined the network in 2001 as a war correspondent.