Puerto Ricans face new reality after Hurricane Maria

10News reporter Bianca Graulau captured residents banding together to survive during her coverage from Puerto Rico.

MARIANA, Puerto Rico - Life in the island nation has drastically changed after Hurricane Maria hit the island in September.

"It's a completely different reality,” said Christine Nieves Rodríguez, who lives in Humacao, a town located on the southwest coast of the island.

She's used to working with startups. Her partner, Luis Rodríguez Sánchez, used to be focused on making music. Now their worries are finding food and water.

Three weeks after the hurricane, they're still in survival mode.

"I feel like I live in a dystopian future in which I know there is internet and wi-fi but I don't have access to those things," Nieves said. "I don't have water."

Mariana's 3,000 residents feel like they've been forgotten.

"We fell through the cracks," Nieves said.

They received supplies 10 days after the hurricane - consisting of one can of Vienna sausages, a granola bar and skittles.

One week later, rumors of a helicopter bringing aid sent people running up a hill to stand in line.

"They told us we can go home and come back when we hear the helicopter," Juana Rodríguez Laboy said.

So far, they've relied only on each other.

"If she cooks, she'll give me a plate,” Rodríguez said of her neighbor. “If I make coffee, I'll give her a little bit because we're running out of supplies."

They didn't know what the helicopter would bring, but hoped it would be water.

"What I need most is to drink a sip of water,” Rodríguez said. “Sometimes, we don't have it and we crave it."

A couple of hours later a few trucks with federal agents parked on the side of the road to give out boxes of pre-cooked meals.

"We tried to bring water,” an agent with a rifle said. “But it hasn't arrived in the ships."

For Christine Nieves and Luis Rodriguez, Hurricane Maria this has been a wake-up call.

"After 10 days of not receiving any help, we realized 'why are we waiting?' We can do something,'" she said.

They've started a community effort to feed the people of Mariana. Through private donations, they gathered enough food to serve lunch five days a week for everyone who could make it to the hill in Mariana.

"There's a distinct difference between disaster relief and long-term sustainable building and we're focused on the latter," Nieves said.

The way they see it, they'll only recover if they do it together.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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