SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (CBSMiami) — Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine arrived in Puerto Rico with thousands of pounds of much-needed supplies as the island struggles to recover from Hurricane Maria.
The mayor organized relief efforts and chartered a cargo plane which left Wednesday morning from Opa-Locka Airport with 7,000 pounds of supplies.
“This is a call for help for everybody to do whatever they can to help Puerto Rico. The plane is full with water, food, medical supplies, batteries, stocked full to the gills,” said Levine.
“There is destruction everywhere you look,” said CBS4’s Ted Scouten, who traveled with the mayor.
Levine called the relief effort a race against time, saying it needs to be handled like a military operation.
“This was an invasion. This was an attack against the United States. Maria was the aggressor. Now we need to come in and fight back and we need to do it with what we know is the best we got, the United States military,: he said.
Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, who has been personally wading through flood waters to check on residents, met Mayor Levine on the tarmac and urged others to help.
“It’s a war on devastation and a race against time,” said Mayor Cruz.
She had a direct message for anyone wanting to donate items to Puerto Rico and shared a list of supplies they need which includes:
- Solar-powered items
- Portable Nebulizers
- Bottled Water
- Diapers for adults and children
“This is a humanitarian crisis already, bound to get worse if we do not do what needs to be done and do it quickly,” said Mayor Cruz.
Cruz was grateful for Mayor Levine’s help.
“From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. Miami has always been there for the world and we’re so thankful that they’re there for us,” said Cruz. “That’s hope wrapped up in a little box, straight from Miami Beach. That’s sunshine.”
Mayor Levine and State Rep. Robert Asencio toured the area of San Juan, taking a look at the damage and distributing some of the items Levine brought over.
The aid from South Florida will be distributed through shelters like the one in San Juan and others around the island.
Both mayors hope more help can be shipped in by the cruise industry, which is now steaming back into port.
“That’s the first one. First one that’s coming back,” Mayor Cruz said with a big smile. “We’re open for tourism in Old San Juan, yes. Yes, we are.”
Mayor Cruz stresses that the one thing that is key in the recovery there is cutting through the red tape and being innovative with trying to find solutions.