SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (CBSMiami) — Hurricane Maria is dumping rain and bringing dangerous waves to Turks and Caicos and the southeastern Bahamas.
Across the Caribbean, the storm has claimed at least 27 lives. The entire island of Puerto Rico has been declared a disaster zone and an unknown number of people still need a lifeline.
Puerto Rico’s National Guard Specialist Ricardo Rivera is on the front lines of what’s going to be a very long mission.
“We’re trying to rescue people in the most safe way we can, but there is still danger,” said Rivera.
He’s spent the last two days wading through Maria’s floodwaters to get people to safety.
“This is really worse than expected,” said Rivera.
Across the island, flooding is widespread, homes are crushed and there is no power, no running water and, except for parts of the capital city, no communication.
“Right now, we don’t have any communication. All cellphones and internet lines are dead. That’s the worst part,” said Rivera.
That’s making for emotional reunions with loved ones.
“We’re going to go into the house and now take care of them and keep doing it. This is why it is so tedious. You got to do it house by house to make sure everybody is okay,” said San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.
When asked about the likelihood of people losing their patience, the mayor said, “The Puerto Rico and San Juan you lived in a couple of days ago is non-existent so you’re going to be impatient. I am concerned about them losing their lives. This is a life or death situation.’ We’re not being dramatic.”
Getting the island’s ports back open to receive more emergency supplies is a top priority.
Today, FEMA is supposed to start daily flights with food, water, generators and temporary shelters.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is also landing in San Juan today with help from his state.