SAN JUAN (CBSMiami) – Puerto Rico’s main airport is packed to the brim with people trying to get away from the island devastated by Hurricane Maria.
Marianna Ramirez was finally able to catch a flight out.
“I thought I couldn’t get out. The line was so big, so long. Everybody trying to get away,” Ramirez said.
A grateful Adrianna Aran is happy to touch down in Fort Lauderdale after nearly a week of post-Hurricane Maria life in Puerto Rico.
“It’s been a rough few days. Everybody in Puerto Rico is just trying to survive, get food and gasoline, and everyone is like fighting for it,” she said.
The airport in San Juan has no A/C and is packed with people hoping to catch a flight. But hightailing out of Puerto Rico isn’t easy. There are only a handful of flights allowed out each day.
“The communication and the infrastructure is not up to par to be able to handle what they usually do. So they restricted the airplanes coming in, and we only had one of those slots,” said Alexis Aran Coello with American Airlines.
American Airlines is flying in larger jets to get as many of those people on planes as possible.
“So now we have two airplanes going in – that’s about 600 people. That’s when we can get out and we are working feverishly to get our passengers out of there. We know that they’re stuck, we know that they’ve been there for days and we’re trying our hardest,” Aran Coello said.
“You didn’t have water, you didn’t have electricity. We had to take stairs up in condos, 12 floors,” said Lee El-Emari.
The El-Emari family lives in the Condado neighborhood of San Juan. They consider themselves lucky. They weathered the storm better than most areas of the island. Many neighborhoods were destroyed, and there are shortages of food and water. But they said amidst the misery was something astonishing – the people who took it upon themselves to make life a little better for those suffering the most.
“Puerto Rican people, you saw them, the individuals on the street, helping everybody. They were cleaning up the roads, they had chainsaws, even though they couldn’t get gas,” El-Emari said. “They really made a difference by joining together what they could.”