Maria, the second major hurricane to savage the Caribbean this month and the most powerful storm to strike Puerto Rico in nearly a century, carved a path of destruction on Wednesday. It knocked out electricity, apart from emergency generators, on the island of 3.4 million inhabitants.
Near the rain-swollen Guajataca River, in the northwest part of the island, floodwater littered with branches and debris engulfed the first floor of a number of homes and swamped vehicles that were left behind.
“We lost our house, it was completely flooded,” said resident Carmen Gloria Lamb. “We lost everything, cars, clothes, everything.”
The storm has resulted in 10 confirmed fatalities on the island so far, Rossello’s office told CNN on Saturday. The governor’s office could not be reached for comment by Reuters.
Signs of the strain on Puerto Ricans were evident throughout San Juan, the capital.
Drivers had to wait up to seven hours at the few filling stations open on Saturday, according to news reports, and lines of cars snaked for blocks. Hotels warned that guests might have to leave soon without fresh supplies of diesel to keep generators operating.
Water rationing also began on Saturday. Signs posted throughout San Juan’s Old Town informed residents that service would return for two hours each day, between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., until further notice.
Telephone service was also unreliable, with many of the island’s cell towers damaged or destroyed.
People swarmed under some of the towers, holding up their devices in the hopes of getting a signal. The governor also extended a nightly curfew on Saturday, the Caribbean Business newspaper reported.