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Former KMBZ reporter among millions awaiting word on Puerto Rican relatives

The island territory is devastated after back-to-back hurricanes

Dan Weinbaum
October 02, 2017 - 5:59 am
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A former KMBZ reporter says he has family members who continue to suffer following the devastation from two hurricanes on Puerto Rico.

Aguadilla is a town of about 60,000 residents on the northwest coast of the U.S. territory. It's where Kyle Geary's mother grew up. His great-grandfather is 100 and has dementia. His grandfather, in his mid 70s, and requires insulin. A great aunt, in her 90s, is on oxygen. Geary has several aunts, uncles and cousins living there.

Maria, the second storm, destroyed most of the island's electric and communication infrastructure. Thousands of miles of roads are impassable, which is holding up relief supplies for 3.4 million inhabitants. 

"I have tried to contact anyone in my family and have not been able to speak to anyone," Geary says.

The town of Aguadilla is especially isolated, because of its location, about 80 miles west of the San Juan metropolis. The drive time in ideal conditions is close to two hours. 

"It's far from San Juan, on the opposite side of the island," Geary said. "It's hard to get to, bridges are down -- a pretty bad situation."

The most frustrating aspect of watching the aftermath on television and on the internet is not knowing what is going on with his ailing relatives, Geary said. 

"The last update I had on Aguadilla is the hospital is without power," Geary said. "That's concerning."

The Trump administration has faced criticism because of the slow response to Puerto Rico, a territory the natives of which are U.S. citizens. But federal officials point to the unprecedented challenges they have seen in trying to get help to the people who need it most.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long described the Puerto Rico effort "most logistically challenging event that the United States has ever seen."  

Meanwhile, millions of relatives in the U.S. wait for word on what happened to their loved ones.

"The last text I have is from the day before the hurricane," Geary said. "And they said that they were fine, and they're going to ride it out, and to just pray for them."

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