Local family of Puerto Rico residents wait, watch and worry

BOARDMAN, Ohio (WYTV) – In the days since Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, many across the nation and here in the Valley are watching the efforts to provide aid to the devastated island.

Luis Arroyo said he knows the dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins he has on the island are alive but has no idea how they are living.

Arroyo is a counselor with Mahoning County Domestic Relations Court and was born in Puerto Rico. The last time he was there was three months ago. He said the damage from Hurricanes Maria and Irma caused so much destruction and left rural hamlets and villages virtually isolated, throwing a knockout punch at the island’s 3.5 million residents.

“Just like any fighters, they are going to get up and they are going to tell you they are okay. And if they are alive, yes, but there some finer needs,” Arroyo said.

President Trump issued an order Thursday loosening restrictions imposed by the century-old Jones Act, which normally requires all goods headed for Puerto Rico be shipped on American vessels operated by Americans.

Arroyo said many of the rural roads on the island are still impassable, leaving residents unable to get to the spots where medical services, fuel, food, and water are available. He said distribution needs to be better organized.

“It will take a military-style effort – all resources at one time from all sides of the island,” Arroyo said.

For now, Arroyo worries many will fall sick or die because they can’t get the help they need.