Samaritan's Purse among groups involved with massive relief efforts for Puerto Rico

Samaritan's Purse among groups involved with massive relief efforts for Puerto Rico
(Steve Ohnesorge | WBTV)
(Steve Ohnesorge | WBTV)

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (WBTV) - Skies were blue, temperatures were up and on any other final weekend in September it would have been a perfect day to be on the beach in Puerto Rico. But the beaches were empty and the hotels too at this Caribbean tourist mecca on Sunday.

The three million people who live on the island are in survival mode these days in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.  The entire island's power grid has been knocked offline and it could be months before electricity is restored.

"It's terrible and we don't know when it will end," said Alberto Coss, who was waiting in line for gasoline for his car and a generator.

He had been waiting for two days.

Across San Juan where rooftops were peeled off and power lines knocked down by the category 5 storm, recovery is just beginning. There is evidence of cleanup underway in many neighborhoods. Outside of San Juan, many areas have not been able to take even that first step.

Thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed. At the international airport instead of tourists coming in, there were cargo and military planes filling the taxi areas. Relief supplies are being offloaded day and night.

Samaritan's Purse invited WBTV to go along with a flight on Sunday. It carried 20 tons of material to be used for emergency housing. Officials said it was enough to help 6,000 families. It was the third flight so far in the past week to Puerto Rico for the Boone, North Carolina-based ministry.

Pilot Bryan Hilliard said it is just the start.

"We're probably going to be doing supply runs for the foreseeable future," Hilliard said.

The flights carry relief items and manpower. David Ang, who was on Sunday's mission, expects to stay in Puerto Rico for at least a month, maybe longer.

"I'll stay as long as I'm needed," Ang said.

Samaritan's Purse has its hands full this hurricane season. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and now Maria have left behind a path of destruction. Officials said they would do what they can to help in all the disaster zones.

In fact, as crews left the aircraft on its return to Greensboro Sunday night, a line of pallets with more relief supplies was waiting to be loaded. That flight was set for Monday to the island of St. Martin where Irma caused catastrophic damage.

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