YABUCOA, Puerto Rico (CBSMiami) – While federal relief is still gaining traction in Puerto Rico, nonprofit groups and charities are sending supplies to the island, which are being put directly into the hands of the victims of Hurricane Maria.
CBS4 reporter Hank Tester and photographer Rudy Marshall got into Yabucoa, one of the major impact areas.
Maria’s eye ravaged the rural town, which is an hour and a half south of San Juan. Weeks later, relief has been slow, almost nonexistent.
“A church came and you are the second one that come here,” Yabucoa resident Juan Castro told Tester. “We appreciate it, we appreciate it.”
Tester and Marshall traveled to Puerto Rico with representatives of “Global Empowerment Mission,” “Be Strong” and “We Do Better” in a corporate jet chartered by Mango’s Tropical Cafe from South Beach.
“Very moving, amazing, this is making a difference,” said Mango’s owner David Wallack.
The groups are definitely making a difference for the folks whose homes were totaled.
People have been living under tarps with no water, no power, very little food and nearly all the jobs gone. They can’t even get money of ATMs. There’s not a lot of hope in the short run.
“Can’t even go out to take money because the machine is not working,” said Juan Claudio. “I at least have something to eat.”
This is the story across the island, and it pains Puerto Rico’s ex-governor.
“Almost shameful we are still having to get water to people, drinking water,” said former Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila. “I never thought that I would go places in Puerto Rico and have people say to you ‘thank you’ because you gave them water.”
Drinking water is exactly what the charter flight brought to the island, as well as medical supplies. Volunteers shuttled the items off the jet to later be sorted at a city warehouse in Yabucoa.
“Private donations, sponsorships, everything is donated. Everyone is helping. We are working together to help the people in Yabucoa,” Lauri Renta said. “You see everyone is working together, and I think this will help Puerto Rico move forward, surprisingly.”
By late afternoon, the Miami donations, combined with other people-to-people contributions, made it into the outskirts of the rural town.
But with the food and water lasting maybe a day or two, hope is beginning to fade for some.
“I want a ticket and go… right away! I used to live in Connecticut and Orlando, Florida,” Claudio said.
In an area where the poverty rate is forty percent, the future is bleak. federal relief is not geared up in the area.
Tester noted he never saw anyone from FEMA, and no military except some Marines who had just arrived Saturday at the local airport.
Former Gov. Acevedo Vila told Tester that since the U.S. military stepped up their efforts things are looking better, but the are many locations, especially in rural Puerto Rico, that are far worse than what Tester’s crew saw in Yabucoa.