Milagros Moreno has lost virtually everything to Hurricane Maria aside from her most treasured possession – a framed picture of her US servicewoman daughter.
‘I love her so much, I am so proud of her – you must tell her that God has protected me. I am alive,’ she exclusively tells DailyMail.com, dabbing tears from her eyes.
Moreno has not been able to her contact her only child, Arleen Nunez, a 37-year-old soldier stationed at an Army base in Kansas City, Missouri.
Her story is typical of the chaos in Puerto Rico – a growing plight which now threatens to become politically explosive for the Trump administration.
DailyMail.com traveled beyond downtown San Juan to areas just a few miles away where people have lost everything – and are now asking why they are seeing none of the federal assistance promised by the president.
Moreno is typical of them. Like millions of islanders, the 59-year-old has had no phone signal or power since the category four hurricane ripped the roof from over her head and tore down the concrete walls around her.
The widowed mother has remained in the wrecked shell of her former three-bedroom home in Sector Terraplen, a poor neighborhood just outside San Juan, for the past week, too afraid to venture out.
The flattened village is just a few miles from a makeshift US airbase at San Juan International Airport where military planes are landing every hour laden with supplies, but Moreno says none of the relief missions have visited her.
Milagros Moreno lost virtually everything when Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico last Wednesday. The one thing she was able to salvage is her most treasured possession – a framed picture of her US servicewoman daughter, Arleen Nunez
Inside the destroyed home of Moreno, just outside San Juan in Sector Terraplen after the passing of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. She said she stayed in her home as the walls fell down and the ceiling caved in. She thought she was dead
The island is left without power and communication to the outside world has been cut off. Moreno has not been able to contact her only child and let her know that she is safe. Nunez (pictured left and right) is in the US Army and based in Kansas City, Missouri
The widowed mother has remained in the wrecked shell of her former three-bedroom home in Sector Terraplen, a poor neighborhood just outside San Juan, for the past week, too afraid to venture out
The flattened village is just a few miles from a makeshift US airbase at San Juan International Airport where military planes are landing every hour laden with supplies but Moreno says none of the relief missions have visited her
Like millions of islanders, the 59-year-old has had no phone signal or power since the category four hurricane ripped the roof from over her head and tore down the concrete walls around her. Moreno wanted to pass along a message to her daughter, saying: ‘I love her so much, I am so proud of her – you must tell her that God has protected me. I am alive’
The powerful hurricane devastated the island, as homes and businesses in San Juan were left utterly destroyed
‘The hurricane started at 4am in the morning when I was in bed. I was trembling and scared so I just buried my head under the cushion,’ explains Milagros, who has lived alone since her husband Domingo died from diabetes one year ago, at the age of 69.
‘I could hear the plywood coming down from the roof and then the concrete blocks falling off the walls and hitting my bed. Somehow they missed me.
‘I have no transport and nowhere to go, so I just stay here. Nobody is bringing me food so all I can do is wait for someone to come by.
‘I have lit a fire so the smoke will keep the mosquitoes away. There’s bees in my refrigerator, they’ve stung me four times.
‘Most of my things are buried under the rubble but I hid my daughter’s picture and ID in a safe place. She went to live in America and I miss her so much, she is my only daughter.
‘I would give everything just to talk to her.’
Dozens of homes and restaurants in the nearby village of Torre Silla De Baja have been reduced to twisted piles of wreckage or had their roofs and upper stories ripped clean off.
Rosa Rivera, 47, stands outside her family’s home, which was completely destroyed during the passing of Hurricane Maria just outside San Juan in Torre Silla De Baja, Puerto Rico. The only thing left standing in her home is the tiny bathroom
Dozens of homes and restaurants in the nearby village of Torre Silla De Baja have been reduced to twisted piles of wreckage or had their roofs and upper stories ripped clean off
Almost the whole population of the island is still without power and half lack running water, with no end in sight to the disaster
The shattered island was compared to Afghanistan by one member of the Air National Guard C-130 crew, who served in Afghanistan and is now tasked with delivering vital supplies
Officials have told residents in the working class community, located directly under the airport’s flight path, that they will likely have to spend six months or more without power
The hurricane has torn the roof away and flattened every single external wall, leaving behind the surreal site of just a spotless tile floor with a small bathroom cubicle, a remote control and a metal safe that was bolted to the floor
Officials have told residents in the working class community, located directly under the airport’s flight path, that they will likely have to spend six months or more without power.
As an Air Force C-130 transport plane potentially full of supplies soars overheard, Orlando Rivera, 48, merely looks to the skies and shrug his shoulders.
‘The military flies over my home every 15 minutes or so, but do you think we will see any of that aid down here, no way,’ he says.
‘They say Mr Trump is coming next week. We will welcome him with open arms, just as long as he brings some food.’
Rivera’s single story breeze-block home is still standing but the same cannot be said of his sister Rosa’s neighboring property.
The hurricane has torn the roof away and flattened every single external wall leaving behind the surreal site of just a spotless tile floor with a small bathroom cubicle and a metal safe that was bolted to the floor.
‘Maria must have decided she wanted everything,’ Rosa, 47, tells DailyMail.com.
‘She left us the TV remote which is helpful as we no longer have any power or a TV. The safe is still here too so she must have known it was empty.’
Hundreds of people seeking to leave filled the sweltering halls of San Juan International Airport are left anxious for a seat on one of the few flights operating after Hurricane Maria devastated power and communications across the island
Yeimarie Lopez, 27, and Ricki Nelson, 25, of Alexandria, Virginia, wait in the San Juan International Airport in hopes that they will be able to catch a flight back home and said they are left with no option but to sleep on the floor
FEMA’s makeshift headquarters at the San Juan Convention Center after the passing of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico
Eric Almazan, 22, of Mexico holds one of the few airline tickets as he is about to walk through security to head home
The majority of Puerto Rico remains without power, clean drinking water, phone signal or security with residents enduring primitive conditions, the threat of looting and stifling heat. Military aid is arriving with a constant stream of planes such as this C-5 Galaxy landing in San Juan. But residents tell DailyMail.com the aid is not getting through
In the nearby departures terminal at the international airport there’s a handful of stores open and even a place to buy a beer.
Yeimarie Lopez, 27, and her 25-year-old husband Rickie Nelson look like they could use one.
The couple from Alexandria, Virginia, flew out to Puerto Rico on September 16 for a vacation but Hurricane Maria has turned their trip into a two week nightmare.
They spent the storm hunkered down at the home of Yeimarie’s father Leonardo who lives in the remote mountain region of Utuado.
‘Nobody seemed to be taking it very seriously until the power and the water went out. Then winds started up and we knew it was going to be bad. People died in the neighboring municipality but thankfully we were OK.’
In the wake of the storm Yeimarie’s father spent days seeking out enough fuel for the hour-long drive to the international airport. But after he dropped them off their flight was cancelled and he didn’t have enough gas to come back.
‘We have a standby flight for tomorrow but this morning the line stretched the length of the terminal – and most people left without tickets,’ explains higher education worker Yeimarie.
‘We basically have no option but to sleep here on the floor. We have no bedding but I guess it’s safe.’ A few yards away 22-year-old Mexican national Eric Almazan is clutching an American Airlines boarding pass and saying an emotional farewell to his friends.
Weary residents told DailyMail.com how they waited six hours in miles-long lines to buy a maximum $20 of gas only to see emergency vehicles and state officials cut to the front
Lines for the handful of working ATMs stretch round city blocks and cafes and restaurants with generators are rationing customers to 20 minutes of electricity at a time
Puerto Rico is in a state of desperation, as citizens clamor to obtain much-needed supplies. President Trump received criticism for speaking up more about the controversial NFL protests than the struggling island
Trump has said he will visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday. Trump’s administration has been accused of treating Puerto Rico differently than Florida and Texas
Carolina Pagan, 22, and Edgar Guadalupe, 21, wait in a seemingly endless line for gasoline after the passing of Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Transport on the island has been hit not just by gas shortages but by blockages from downed trees. Residents claim that although lines are hours-long, government vehicles skip the line to fill up
Retired chemistry teacher Joe Mortelli, 76, bought $15 of gas which he pushes several blocks in a grocery cart and carry up five flights of stairs to his sea-front home in Isla Verde
The lack of gas stations has left drivers stranded in long lines waiting like this one on the outskirts of San Juan
Massive lines (seen on the right)) are seen at an almost standstill for roughly six hours in San Juan, Puerto Rico
The group was doing an internship at the swank Ritz Carlton hotel in the sun-bleached tourist hotspot of Dorado when the storm turned their luxury haven into a prison.
‘I feel bad for them but I’m happy I can finally escape this hell,’ he tells DailyMail.com.
‘The hotel had security but outside in the streets there were people being robbed. ‘We heard that someone got shot for gas. There were even people fighting with sticks and knives over bottles of water.
‘I’ve been to the airport every day for the past week and I’ve spent the last few nights on the floor.
‘They offered me a ticket out a few days ago but they wanted $1,000. There’s no way I could afford that so I just had to sit and wait for my re-scheduled flight.’
In San Juan itself, tempers are boiling over as residents jostle to get inside stores like Walmart, CVS and Walgreen’s with armed guards looking on nervously.
Lines for the handful of working ATMs stretch round city blocks and cafes and restaurants with generators are rationing customers to 20 minutes of electricity at a time.
Weary residents told DailyMail.com how they waited six hours in miles-long lines to buy a maximum $20 of gas only to see emergency vehicles and state officials cut to the front.
In San Juan itself, tempers are boiling over as residents jostle to get inside stores like Walmart, CVS and Walgreen’s with armed guards looking on nervously
Even with a ramped-up response, the problems facing Puerto Rico will take a long time to resolve, according to US officials
More troops, medical supplies and vehicles were on the way to the island, but it will be some time before the U.S. territory is back on its feet, the senior U.S. general appointed to lead military relief operations said on Friday
People wait outside a Walmart in San Juan, Puerto Rico, after the passing of Hurricane Maria
Although the island is in a desperate sitution, President Trump defended his administration’s handling of the disaster. ‘Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello just stated: “The Administration and the President, every time we’ve spoken, they’ve delivered …,” Trump tweeted early on Friday
Trump waived a rule on Thursday that has kept non-U.S. ships from bringing aid after Rossello said that restriction was getting in the way. Pictured: Wreckage in downtown San Juan
While the most obvious impact of the story is the damage to structures, the hurricane devastated agriculture, a small bright spot of economic growth in a U.S. territory mired in a decade-long recession and crushing debt
‘The problem is the government employees or anyone with an official letter can just slip to the front of the line,’ fumes Yolanda Ortiz, 55.
‘We need fuel too, how else can I get to work?’ Hotel worker Edgar Guadalupe, 21, is having to push his Hyundai Veloster the last few hundred yards to a Puma gas station in Carolina.
‘We’ve had to drive through the mountains to get here and I’m down to the last few drops,’ he says. ‘I’m just praying they have enough on sale so I can get home.
‘The hurricane tore the AC from my bedroom wall and the wind and rain just blew right in and ruined my stuff. It’s hard here, man – we need help fast.’
Retired chemistry teacher Joe Mortelli, 76, bought $15 of gas which he will push several blocks in a grocery cart and carry up five flights of stairs to his sea-front home in Isla Verde.
‘My wife is limited to a wheelchair and we have no elevator so I have to lug this up there by myself. I’m one of the fortunate ones with a generator,’ he says.
New Yorker Joe moved to Puerto Rico ten years ago and his 81-year-old wife is still working as a professor at the Inter American University.
‘Sure it’s tough but I love the people here, the resilience, and my life right by the beach,’ he says. ‘I don’t regret coming here at all. I love Puerto Rico – in spite of the hurricanes.’
The mayor of the capital of Puerto Rico hit back on Friday at the comments of a top US official who said federal efforts to help the territory recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria is ‘a good news story.’ ‘This is a ‘people are dying story,’ Carmen Yulin said. ‘This is a life-or-death story’
Maria, the most powerful storm to hit Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years, has killed at least 16 people on the island and more than 30 across the Caribbean
Homes and buildings sit empty as thousands of tourists and residents who have been stranded in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria devastated the island nation were evacuated on cruise ships headed towards Fort Lauderdale on Thursday
The aid mission in Puerto Rico is ongoing and residents, despite receiving millions of dollars in donations and food supplies, are still living in abominable conditions
One hindrance is the lack of drivers in the area and the fact that many of the roads remain blocked due to debris
Many of the island’s roads remain impassable and there are not enough drivers to be able to take them to some of the hardest-hit remote regions