Hola y Bienvenidos!
I’d like to welcome you back today to update you on what is currently happening on my isla. Puerto Rico is truly made of strong people. We are survivors!
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Saddled with economic problems and its own damage from Hurricane Irma, Puerto Rico is taking thousands of refugees from the U.S. Virgin Islands whose homes were destroyed by the storm, with a cruise ship carrying up to 2,000 more which set sail for the U.S. territory on Wednesday. Government-led missions have also been evacuating people from the islands to Puerto Rico. Some 1,200 mostly American citizens, have been carried from Saint Martin and Saint Thomas in six C130 aircraft, and more than 50 patients have been airlifted to Puerto Rican hospitals, officials said.
Visibly shaken residents from St. Martin and the Virgin Islands arrived on Tuesday on U.S. military aircraft, bringing tales of terrifying winds and a breakdown of law and order.
FAJARDO, P.R. — Puerto Rico, dealt only a glancing blow by Hurricane Irma, has become an impromptu emergency hub for its Caribbean neighbors that were left devastated by the storm’s wrath.
Puerto Ricans relieved at being spared the worst destruction donated water, clothing, first aid and other supplies, and dozens of recreational boaters sailed to nearby islands to deliver the assistance and evacuate now-homeless islanders on the return trip. A 54-foot dive boat named the Tobias cast off on Sunday morning from the marina here, the largest in the Caribbean, and made its way eastward under a searing sun to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, the fourth vessel of that day to make the trip. It would return later crowded to capacity with 46 St. Thomas residents escaping the near-total devastation of the island.
The storm, which struck the islands first, swiftly knocked out power and phone service, leaving their residents disconnected from the outside world. As displaced islanders began to trickle in to Puerto Rico in the storm’s wake, so did their stories of the wreckage they had fled.
I am truly amazed at how strong my people really are, this is what two of the refugees had to say about being rescued and evacuated to the isla:
“God bless Puerto Rico and the hearts because you guys are struggling. And from the hardest struggle, that’s where the real people come out,” Vonfabrice said, thanking Puerto Rico for sending food, water and ships to the Virgin Islands.
“The people of Puerto Rico – what big hearts you guys got because our (local) government did nothing – nothing,” said William Vonfabrice, 61, from St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. “People coming at us with machetes, offering bullets and saying ‘There is more for you,’ breaking into houses, hurting people.”
Britain’s government said local authorities had imposed a curfew on the British Virgin islands, where locals complained of widespread looting and violent crime after Irma.
A Puerto Rico government spokeswoman said the financial situation and expected length of stay of the 2,000 refugees to arrive in San Juan was still unclear, but that expenses would be covered by emergency federal funding.
Puerto Rico has set up a large convention center to house refugees who cannot afford to go to a hotel. Speaking of hotels Puerto Rico’s tourism infrastructure has allowed the island to resume regular operations of hotels, sites and attractions beginning this week. The island is continuing to welcome travellers with planned vacations in September and beyond, and has also become a transient hub for travellers across the Caribbean. The Puerto Rico Tourism Company reports that nearly all hotels are operational and are receiving guests.
Marriott hotels including San Juan Marriott, Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and AC Hotel by Marriott welcomed approximately 700 guests from St. Thomas, St. Maarten and St. John.
While some power outages are present throughout the island, most of the island has power and the majority of the hotels, as well as essential services on the island such as hospitals and supermarkets, have electric service and are fully operational.
Today, we the people of Puerto Rico, are sending a strong loud and clear message to the world that we are strong and we are survivors! We’re American citizens. God bless my people and the isla of Puerto Rico!
Visitors with questions about travel to Puerto Rico can call the PRTC hotline at 877.976.2400 or call their hotels directly for more information.