Sacramento man's Puerto Rican parents: They need help

A Sacramento family is worrying about their parents in Puerto Rico, who are still without power a month after Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory. (Oct. 22, 2017)

A Sacramento family is worrying about their parents in Puerto Rico, who are still without power a month after Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory.

The storm made landfall there on Sept. 20, wiping out power and further damaging already-run-down infrastructure.

A month later, some 80 percent of the island remains without electricity, and that's leaving family members here on the mainland worried.

ABC10 first spoke with Jose and Erin Medina earlier this month. At the time, they'd just had their first meaningful contact with Jose's parents in Puerto Rico. For two whole weeks following Hurricane Maria's landfall, spotty cell service and a lack of electricity had kept his mom and dad from reaching out.

Since then, things haven't vastly improved.

"The last time (my dad) went in a line just to get water has been hours. That seems odd...That's a basic, essential resource that anyone would need," Jose Medina said. "I'm not talking about, like, when the hurricane hit...This is a month later."

He last spoke with his parents on Friday evening, when they updated him on current conditions in Guyama, where they live, 45 miles south of the capital city, San Juan.

"They borrow a cell phone from a friend, who has a car, who can charge the cell phone," Medina said.

The US Army Corps of Engineers' Commander Lt. General Todd T. Semonite explained Friday why restoring Puerto Rico to full power is a logistical nightmare.

"People have asked me in the last several weeks, 'Now, why don't you do in Puerto Rico what you could have done in Florida?' Because it is an island and it is very, very hard to just drive hundreds of pole trucks and hundreds of material down in the Virgin Islands and down into Puerto Rico," Semonite said.

While the capital, San Juan, has power restored, most other parts of the territory do not, including Guyama.

Puerto Rico is "not that far away from the United States. It shouldn't be that hard to get resources over," Medina said. "If we can ship tanks and military equipment all around the world, I really don't see the problem."

In a joint appearance with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló Thursday, President Trump called the US government's response there a 10 out of 10.

"I'd say it was probably the most difficult-- when you talk about relief, when you talk about search, when you talk about all the different levels, and even when you talk about lives saved, you look at the number," Trump said. "I think it was worse than Katrina. It was, in many ways, worse than anything people have ever seen."

"Every petition that we've made to the president of the United States until this moment, it has been answered," Rosselló said. "We recognize that there are some logistical limitations that we have in Puerto Rico. We didn't have the ports open for a couple of days. We didn't have the airports working at full capacity until about a day or two ago...The reality is that we still need to do a lot more for the people of Puerto Rico, and that's why we're meeting here. This is not over. Not over by a long shot."

For mainland family members watching helpless, thousands of miles away, the lack of major progress remains frustrating.

"Just because the infrastructure is bad or, you know, Elon Musk is going to eventually save it," Erin Medina said, "doesn't mean that (Jose's) mom and dad should have to sit without power for a month and have to stand in these lines."

"This is not a situation where they can fix it by themselves," Jose Medina said. "They need help. They deserve the help."

The Army Corps of Engineers is building a temporary power plant in San Juan that should be running by the end of this month. But even then, an estimated 62,000 and 6,500 miles of wire will still be needed to get that electricity to the entire territory.

The Medinas have created a GoFundMe page to help their family, that's HERE.

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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