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Royal Caribbean Rescues Thousands From Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands

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FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Royal Caribbean carried out a rescue mission to help those stranded on the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

The Doral-based cruise line said its Adventure of the Seas cruise ship brought 3,800 passengers from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to Port Everglades Tuesday morning.

It was the moment Carmen Alvarado had been waiting for. Her sister-in-law and three young nieces were desperately trying to get off the island and she got them on the boat.

“She was just very emotional. She had to leave my brother and the rest of the family behind,” said Alvarado.

The trip was free. Nearly all of the people on the ship either work for the cruise line or are family and friends.

Another woman got her sister and nieces on board thanks to a friend who worked for the cruise line. To see them now is overwhelming.

“I have no words, no words,” said the woman.

After losing communication for days, Ingid Vasquez was finally holding her mother again. Her mother cruised to her escape from her beloved island. Now she’s no sure if she’ll ever go back.

“I was hoping to heal…I need to stand up again on my own two feet,” said Ingrid’s mother. “I don’t know how soon that island can be my Puerto Rico again.”

The cruise line will work with airlines to make travel arrangements so the passengers can get to their homes, or those of friends or family.

While the ship was in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, it dropped off supplies including water and food.

Maria, which came ashore in Puerto Rico as the strongest storm to hit the island in nearly 90 years, has created a humanitarian crisis. It knocked out nation’s electric grid, water for drinking is in short supply and transportation on the island is snarled.

After the storm, thousands tried to leave Puerto Rico, some temporarily and for others, perhaps permanently.

The island has already seen the largest percentage population drop of any U.S. state or territory since 2010 as it has struggled with a 45 percent poverty rate, crippling government debt and an unemployment rate about double the U.S. average.

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