The Current

Puerto Rico still without power more than a month after Hurricane Maria

"We need power as soon as possible. Otherwise, this is going to become a time bomb."
A family lives in darkness in their home after Hurricane Maria hit the island and damaged the power grid in September, in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico. (Alvin Baez/Reuters)

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Six weeks since Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico, the island still struggles to recover from the devastation.

We need power as soon as possible. Otherwise this is going to become a time bomb.- Jorge Montalvo

With electricity restored to only 35 per cent of the population, life in the dark has become the new normal for the majority of people, including Jorge Montalvo in San Juan.

"We need power as soon as possible. Otherwise, this is going to become a time bomb," Montalvo told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti. 

"The more we wait, the less people it's going to be on the island and the more the economy get affected."

Children play in the light of a flashlight at a school turned shelter, after their home was destroyed when Hurricane Maria hit the island in in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. (Alvin Baez/Reuters)

Montalvo is a tour guide — and without tourism, he's not able to work. He's had to use his life savings, money he intended to put towards starting his own business to stay afloat.

"Cruise ships are not visiting the island. The airport is mostly for bringing aid and relief. So tourism is pretty much dead."

No water, no power

It's not recommended to drink the tap water, said Montalvo. Some people are using chlorination to drink the water and many are resorting to buying water in supermarkets every few days.

Cars drive under a partially collapsed utility pole, Oct. 20, in Naguabo, Puerto Rico. After the island was hit by Hurricane Maria, many houses were destroyed and infrastructure is in need of fixing. (Alvin Baez/Reuters)

"Some supermarkets are still rationing the amount of water you can take home. So if you go to a supermarket you can only buy four gallons of water — in some cases, per person," he explained.

"This hurricane has changed everything. And 40 days after the hurricane, I'm still here pretty much in the same position as I was a week after the hurricane."

Related: Timeline on relief effort in Puerto Rico

The United Nations have criticized the lack of urgency from the U.S. in responding to the devastation in Puerto Rico, calling it ineffective and lagging far behind the need.

We usually don't go into a country anywhere in the world where local capacity exist ... We haven't seen that in Puerto Rico.- Shannon Scribner, Oxfam America

That need and the slow response was what prompted Oxfam America to coordinate relief to help the 3.5 million people living on the island.

Israel Ayala takes a bath with water coming through a pipe in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico. (Alvin Baez/Reuters)

"We usually don't go into a country anywhere in the world where local capacity exist and the government is able to respond and has the resources to respond. We haven't seen that in Puerto Rico," Shannon Scribner, the organization's acting director of humanitarian programs & policy. 

"So we felt compelled to respond."

 Scribner told Tremonti that water and sanitation were a particular concern. 

Solar panels were set up by Tesla at the San Juan Children's Hospital, after the island was hit by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. (Alvin Baez/Reuters)

"So we went in because we did not see the local response especially at the national level and with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) up to the level it should be," she said.

"And also because the local authorities have also been affected since it's been the whole island, it was also difficult for them to lead the efforts on the ground."

Listen to the full conversation above.

This segment was produced by The Current's Pacinthe Matar, Ines Colabrese and Yamri Taddese.

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