“I know we’re not going to get to everybody in time. . . . Two days ago, I said I was concerned about that. Now I know we won’t get to everybody in time,” Cruz said.
The governor is a 38-year-old academic who once represented Puerto Rico in the International Mathematical Olympiads. He is head of the New Progressive Party, which advocates for statehood and is loosely affiliated with the Democratic Party. He spent Sunday assessing the damage across the island of more than 3.4 million residents, and he traveled with National Guard troops to deliver aid to some parts of San Juan.
As of Sunday night, Rosselló said he had yet to hear from the mayors of six tiny municipalities, mostly in mountainous and southern parts of the island. Although the death toll officially stands at 10, he fears it will climb in the coming days.
“Flying over the island and seeing the complete devastation of humble housing — wooden housing — seeing the propensity of floods in different areas, you can’t help but wonder if some people didn’t go to safe shelter, stay there and whether they were impacted,” he said.
While Rosselló is pleased with the initial short-term response to the hurricane, he is clearly wary of what may transpire next in Washington — and concerned that Americans broadly aren’t paying enough attention to his island’s plight.
“I’m afraid that perhaps other events have garnered more attention than this one, when the force of nature, the impact that this has had, the devastation is equal to those events,” he said — referring to recent storms in Florida, Texas and elsewhere.
“We are U.S. citizens that just a few weeks ago went to the aid of other U.S. citizens even as we’re going through our fiscal downturn and as we were hit by another storm,” he said. “Now, we’ve been essentially devastated. Complete destruction of the power infrastructure, severe destruction of the housing infrastructure, food and water are needed. My petition is that we were there once for our brothers and sisters, our other U.S. citizens, now it’s time that U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are taken care of adequately, properly.”
If the situation isn’t addressed in the coming weeks, there could be “massive migration to other states, which will bring a whole host of other problems to Puerto Rico and the states. It is within everybody’s interest that we handle this situation for what it is — an unprecedented situation, where two hurricanes back-to-back hit Puerto Rico on an island that was under fiscal turmoil. Those considerations need to be taken into consideration when Congress puts together its aid bill.”
Late last week after the storm hit, some Florida lawmakers said they had already begun planning for the arrival of “tens of thousands” of Puerto Ricans to the mainland United States, a move that is legal — given that island residents are U.S. citizens — but that could put strain on states also recovering from recent natural disasters.