Days after Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico, leaving behind a historic amount of devastation, citizens on the island are trying to get by with the bare minimum of essentials. Electricity is down across the island, and might not be fully back for months, while the full might of the US aid relief apparatus might not reach Puerto Rico until the first week of October. As news continues to trickle in from the island, one constant report is that Puerto Ricans are find it near impossible to find two necessities for recovery: cash and gasoline.
First, the cash problem. As New York Times metro desk writer Luis Ferré-Sadurní showed in a viral tweet video early on Tuesday morning, the lines of people attempting to withdraw money from one of the few working ATMs on the island stretched for an obscene distance:
— Luis Ferré-Sadurní (@luisferre) September 26, 2017
As Bloomberg reported earlier this week, the problem surrounding cash is twofold. First, the lack of electricity is making credit and debit payments near impossible for the majority of business on the island. That makes cash not just a luxury, but a requirement. The second problem, however, is that there just aren’t enough working ATMs to keep up with the demand from Puerto Ricans that need money to buy essential goods during this trying time.
One of those goods is gasoline, and here is where the scarcity problem compounds. Not only can few citizens buy gasoline because of the lack of cash, but the ones that can are quickly finding that there is not enough gas at stations throughout Puerto Rico. An NPR report showed that there are miles-long lines of cars waiting for gasoline tankers to deposit their loads. It’s not just cars that need gasoline, either; with the widespread lack of electricity around the island, portable generators that run on fuel are as good as gold, and yet they can’t be operated until gas stations are able to restock. Even hospitals are facing a fuel shortage for their generators, along with dwindling supplies and medicine, according to CNN.
— Luis Ferré-Sadurní (@luisferre) September 22, 2017
For their part, Puerto Rican authorities are stating that the problem here is distribution, not supply; they have enough gas, they just can’t get it where it needs to go. As NPR notes, since there is no cell phone service in most of the island, it’s impossible to contact the drivers of these gasoline tankers, to at least have an idea where they are and, more importantly, when they will arrive at gas stations throughout the island. Instead, these long queues for gas are expected to continue, with some people waiting upwards of six hours in hopes of filling their cars up, or at least a handheld gas can.
Wondering how you can help Puerto Rico? We’ve collected a list of places where you can donate.