Friday, September 29, 2017

Evacuees Leave Puerto Rico by Cruise Ship, Some Doubting They Will Return

Thousands of people evacuating Puerto Rico line up to get on a cruise ship in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. The aftermath of the powerful storm has resulted in a near-total shutdown of the U.S. territory’s economy that could last for weeks and has many people running seriously low on cash and worrying that it will become even harder to survive on this storm-ravaged island. (Photo Credit: AP/Gerald Herbert) Click to Enlarge.
Thousands of people lined up at San Juan harbor on Thursday to board a cruise ship that will take them from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland in one of the largest evacuations since Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico more than a week ago.

Maria, which came ashore as the strongest storm to hit the island in nearly 90 years, has created a humanitarian crisis.  The powerful storm knocked out the nation’s electric grid and has crippled communications networks, transport, and the water supply for the territory’s 3.4 million people.

The devastation is likely to feed an exodus that has driven tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans from the economically struggling island in recent years in search of opportunity on the mainland.

“I‘m sorry to be leaving Puerto Rico, but I have to.  I prefer home, but it’s impossible with these conditions,” said Ada Reyes, 85.  She was in a wheelchair and traveling on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship bound for Florida with her granddaughter, Maria Fernanda, 19.

Fernanda planned to drop her grandmother in Florida, then head to Boston to look into colleges.  A second-year student at the University of Puerto Rico, the teenager did not know when classes there would resume.

Royal Caribbean International (RCL.N) said its Adventure of the Seas cruise ship will carry 3,800 passengers from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  A company spokesman said the cruise line is providing the passages free of charge and that travelers were registered with the help of local officials.

The ship will make humanitarian calls in the hurricane-hit U.S. Virgin Islands, where it will drop off supplies.  It will then head to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with a planned arrival of October 3.

The cruise line said it will work with airlines to make travel arrangements for passengers looking to meet up with friends and family on the mainland.

“This is a humanitarian mission on behalf of Royal Caribbean,” company spokesman Owen Torres said.

At San Juan’s main airport, flights are slowly returning.  Major carriers including Southwest (LUV.N) and JetBlue (JBLU.O) are still operating at reduced schedules as the airport works to restore power and return to full staffing levels.

JetBlue typically has about 40 flights a day to Puerto Rico but on Thursday it had only seven, which it said was still more than any other airline flying to the U.S. territory.

Read more at Evacuees Leave Puerto Rico by Cruise Ship, Some Doubting They Will Return

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