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Puerto Rico emerges from storm; water and some food scarce


Puerto Rico emerges from storm; water and some food scarce

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Supermarkets are gradually re-opening in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, but the situation is far from normal and many customers are going home disappointed.

Most food stores and restaurants remain closed, largely because power is out for most of the island and few have generators or enough diesel to power them. The shops that were open Monday had long lines outside and vast empty shelves where they once held milk, meat and other perishables. Drinking water was nowhere to be found.

Mercedes Caro shook her head in frustration as she emerged from the SuperMax in the Condado neighbourhood of San Juan with a loaf of white bread, cheese and bananas.

“There is no water and practically no food,” she said. “Not even spaghetti.”

Maria Perez waited outside a Pueblo supermarket in a nearby part of San Juan, hoping to buy some coffee, sugar and maybe a little meat to cook with a gas stove that has enough propane for about another week.

“We are in a crisis,” Perez said. “Puerto Rico is destroyed.”

The fact that some stores and restaurants have re-opened for the first time since Category 4 Hurricane Maria roared across the island Sept. 20 is welcome in a place where nearly everyone has no power and more than half the people don’t have water.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello and other Puerto Rican officials said some ports have been cleared by the Coast Guard to resume accepting ships, which should allow businesses to restock. But the situation remains far from normal.

SuperMax opened on a reduced schedule for several stores in the San Juan area as well as in the hard-hit towns of Caguas and Dorado. Walgreens has reopened about half of its 120 locations in Puerto Rico on a limited basis. Walmart says it has a “handful” of its 48 stores and Sam’s Clubs open, but the process has been slowed by the power outages, port closures and the near total collapse of communications.

Supermarket chain Econo opened 80 per cent of its 63 stores across the island on Tuesday, though the hours would depend on the availability of diesel for its generators.

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