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Puerto Rico, A Disaster by any measure

Hurricane Maria: Puerto Ricans Plead for More Federal Aid to Devastated Island

Puerto Ricans described desperate conditions on the hurricane-ravaged island and pleaded for more help from federal agencies on Monday, with some saying they felt the U.S. territory was being forgotten.

“It looks like a bomb went off,” said Monique Casablanca, 37, by phone from Ocean Park in the capital of San Juan.

“I’ve seen very little to no police presence, I’ve seen zero military presence. Nights are excruciating, there’s screaming, there’s gunshots. It’s hot, so it’s hard to sleep right now I haven’t slept in 48 hours,” said Casablanca, a rental property manager.

 No End in Sight for Puerto Rico Relief Effort After Hurricane Maria 1:52

Casablanca said that while she had seen Federal Emergency Management Agency workers visit the area a few days ago, she had not seen them since.

“You feel like you’re forgotten. I’m in an area that’s flooded and there’s basically dead animals — cats, dogs, rats just floating around — the smell is crazy and I don’t see anyone here anywhere as of today or yesterday,” she said.

“We need more of everything, we need help,” she said.

Federal agencies rescuing people and delivering humanitarian aid to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria faced an island that remains largely without power, running water, fuel and access to cell service on Monday, five days after the storm first made landfall.

FEMA Administrator Brock Long and Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert arrived on the island on Monday and met Gov. Ricardo Rossello in San Juan as relief crews continued to work to provide much needed supplies to the island.

More than 10,000 federal staff, including 700 FEMA personnel, were on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, assisting with rescue efforts, restoring power and getting badly needed supplies to parts of the islands, a FEMA spokesperson said on Monday evening.

“While significant progress is being made, there is still a long way to go,” the FEMA spokesperson said in a statement Monday evening. “As access to ports, airfields, and roads continues to become available, additional resources will continue to flow into hard hit areas.”

“FEMA and our federal partners continue 24-hour operations, conducting search and rescue operations, bringing additional essential commodities to the islands, and restoring power at critical facilities with generators, and the fuel needed to power them,” the spokesperson added.

Nine search and rescue were working “around the clock” in the region, FEMA said in a tweet earlier Monday.

The agency said that it had provided more than 1.5 million meals, 1.1 million liters of water and nearly 12,000 emergency roofing kits.

 National Guard Units Across the Country Join Puerto Rico Relief Effort 2:30

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had said Monday that Long and Bossert were sent to assess the damage from the ground.

“We’ve done unprecedented movement in terms of federal funding to provide for the people of PR and others that have been impacted by these storms,” she said during the White House press briefing. “We’ll continue to do so and continue to do everything that we can possibly under the federal government to provide assistance.”

Trump tweeted Monday night that while Texas and Florida were “doing great” in the aftermath’s of the recent hurricanes, Puerto Rico “is in deep trouble.”

“It’s old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated,” he tweeted, adding that “Much of the Island was destroyed.”

Trump had not tweeted about Puerto Rico since last Thursday.

Maria was the third major storm to hit U.S. shores in just a month, after Hurricanes Irma and Harvey wreaked havoc across the Caribbean and southeastern U.S.

Maria, which made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, has been blamed for 16 deaths on Puerto Rico, officials said Monday.

 Hurricane Maria: Dam in Puerto Rico is in danger of failing 2:24

William Booher, director of public affairs for FEMA, told the Associated Press on Saturday there was no difference in the agency’s response in Puerto Rico, compared with Texas, Louisiana or Florida after recent hurricanes. FEMA has had sufficient resources to deal with back-to-back-to-back hurricanes, he said, adding that “we’ve been able to address each one of them.”

Rossello also praised federal relief efforts on Monday and said FEMA was doing a “phenomenal job,” according to the Associated Press.

But earlier Monday, he also said the island was facing an “unprecedented disaster” and called for swift action from President Donald Trump’s administration.

“Given Puerto Rico’s fragile economic recovery prior to the storms, we ask the Trump Administration and U.S. Congress to take swift action to help Puerto Rico rebuild,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, advocates, residents and officials implored the federal government to send more help and take seriously the long-term impact Maria would have for Puerto Rico.

Image: A man stands on a car on a  flooded street in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in San Juan
A man stands on a car on a flooded street in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico on on Sept. 25. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Frances Colón, founder of the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit Cenadores, said the “scale of the federal response right now is not on scale with the level of devastation.” Colón formed Cenadores to organize Puerto Ricans on the mainland to volunteer to help the island.

“We still have townships not reached. The government had a diesel ship parked in the bay and the government and National Guard is so maxed out they couldn’t ensure security so the fuel could reach its destination,” said Colón, who lives in Miami and worked 12 years for the State Department as a science and technology adviser. “We need boots on the ground from the federal government. We need FEMA, National Guard, a federal response at [Hurricane] Katrina scale.”

“Everyone is overwhelmed because the disaster is bigger than everyone,” she said.

Image: People sit in their apartment with the window blown out in San Juan
People sit in their apartment with the window blown out by the winds of Hurricane Maria as it passed through the area last week in San Juan, Puerto Rico on on Sept. 25. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

“The response can’t be tepid. It’s been a week and still communication is down and there are towns that haven’t been reached.”

PHOTOS: Hurricane Maria Lashes Puerto Rico, Storm-Battered Caribbean

Armando Valdés Prieto, a lawyer who has been helping with volunteer operations in San Juan said he felt the sheer magnitude of the devastation on the island made distributing federal aid difficult.

“The scope and magnitude of what’s going on is so large that I’m not entirely sure that they really know where to start,” he said by phone Monday afternoon.

He said that while he felt a lot was being done, being unable to communicate with parts of the island compounded problems.

“We’re still kind of in an assessment phase where I guess it’s a little hard to gauge whether or not things are being done right,” he added.

Related: Puerto Rico Holds Its Breath Over Hurricane-Battered Dam

Image: Downed trees surround damaged homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria
Downed trees surround damaged homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on Sept. 25 in Naranjito, Puerto Rico. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Adding to the island’s woes is stifling heat. San Juan tied for its maximum temperature at 94 degrees on Sunday, according to the NWS.

“It’s really, really hot and there’s not a lot of respite from the heat,” said Valdés Prieto, adding that many people did not have electrical power and could not use their air conditioners.

And the island’s Aqueduct and Sewer Authority said Monday that only about 40 percent of their customers, or 500,000 people, had water service.

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Emergency Power: The Top Portable Solar Panel Chargers for Disasters

From seasonal storms and natural disasters to hacking attacks and terrorism, we face more threats on our power grid than ever before. With much of our electrical infrastructure still relying on antiquated equipment and technologies, our power grid has become extremely vulnerable to disruption.

Luckily advances in solar technology has made it possible for everyone to at least have a small emergency solar backup, even if it’s just something that can keep your small electronic devices up and running. These small portable devices are not only great for camping and hiking adventures, but when disaster strikes they can help keep devices like cell phones, small tablets, flashlights, emergency radios, ham radios, and GPS devices up and running.

As these technologies continue to improve and be adopted by the public, prices on emergency solar chargers have continued to drop, making them an affordable addition to anyone’s supply list. Here are some of our favorites.

The SunJack Portable Solar Charger

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The SunJack is something that I keep in all of my Bug Out Bags. It’s lightweight, provides enough power to keep my iPhone, handheld radios and backup batteries running indefinitely, and can provide power to anything that accepts a USB charger.

The SunJack 14W Solar Charger Panel can be picked up for about $80. Sunjack’s battery backup devices can be found for $40. Each battery backup takes about 5 hours to fully charge and holds enough power to charge an iPhone about 4 times.

GoalZero Nomad 7, Guide 10 Adventure Kit

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Goal Zero is known for making high-quality solar chargers. For the last couple of years I’ve been using the Goal Zero Guide 10 Adventure Kit as an emergency EDC. The kit includes a Nomad 7 Solar Panel and a Guide 10 Power Pack that can charge AA and AAA batteries.

It’s small enough to slip inside your vehicles glove box, and has an added pocket that allows you to pack it full of extra Every Day Carry (EDC) gear.

The unit retails for around $130.

The Solio Bolt

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If you’re looking for something that you can literally slip in your pocket, then you need to check out the Solio Bolt or the Solio Classic2 Solar Charger. Both of these chargers are small, can hold their charge for up to a year, and their battery packs can hold enough juice to power the average smart phone about 4 times.

The Solio Bolt sells for $70 and the Classic2, which has an extra panel, sells for $100.

The iLand Trek Solar Kit

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While this is the priciest unit on the list, it also packs the largest punch. The iLand Trek Solar Kit comes with a 10W panel and a heavy-duty battery with an operating voltage of 5V-12V. That means this unit can power things like Ham, Marine, and CB Radios; camp lighting and computers; and even things like water pumps and tools. Check it out in action, powering my Emergency Ham radio Setup.

The unit retails for around $700.

The WakaWaka Power+

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The WakaWaka Power+ is another small, easy-to-carry solar kit that can slip inside just about any bug out bag or EDC kit. It does take a bit longer to charge, which is to be expected with these smaller panel units, but once fully charged it holds enough power to charge a smartphone in about 2 hours. It also comes with built in LED lights (5 to 75 lumens) that provide up to 150 hours of emergency lighting on a single charge.

The WakaWake retails for around $75.

The Powermonkey Extreme

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The best thing about the Powermonkey Extreme is the massive amount of power the battery holds. It comes with a 9000mAh lithium polymer battery, and can power virtually any 5V or 12V devices including handheld radios, DSLR cameras and tablet computers. It’s great for camping, and something I like to take with on all long-distance road trips.

It retails fora little over $100.