Civilian groups are helping recovery efforts in Puerto Rico as the country deals with its “greatest catastrophe in modern history” with little help from the U.S. government.
In the wake of Hurricane Maria’s destruction, a contingent from 365 Jeep Life — an auto enthusiasts’ club — from Orlando, Florida is set to deliver on Wednesday 200,000 pounds of food, water and other emergency supplies donations to the hurricane-struck island.
“This is Puerto Rico’s Katrina,” Letty Concepcion, who is traveling with the group, told teleSUR. “People don’t realize the gravity of the situation.”
Concepcion explained they have nearly 10 trucks filled up with supplies for the island. The groups gathering the donations have since paired with an aviation company that will fly out all of the aid from Florida to Puerto Rico on Wednesday.
“The biggest problem is manpower,” Concepcion said, adding that while some aid has managed to reach Puerto Rico, there are few people to help distribute it.
The hurricane has left much of the island nearly uninhabitable, the organizer explained, with many currently stranded without food, water and electricity.
In response to the crisis, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has also refused to extend the waiver for the Jones Act, a 97-year-old shipping law that prevents non-U.S. ships from bringing cargo to and from U.S. harbors.
Lifting the law would have enabled Puerto Rico to receive aid cheaply and quickly with cheaper, tax-free, and readily available foreign-flagged ships.
“We decided we’re not going to rely on the government,” pressed Concepcion.
“Civilians have done more … we’ve basically been on our own,” she added.
As the contingent prepares to leave Wednesday, Concepcion has also set up a Go Fund Me page in order to fundraise for the island’s disaster victims.
While Puerto Rico struggles to recover from Hurricane Maria, which hit the island last week, U.S. President Donald Trump has instead reminded the island of its "massive debt," adding that the U.S. territory owes “Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with."