At the San Juan Airport in Puerto Rico, many residents are camping out while waiting for a flight as others are coming to seek refuge, assuming the airport has power, water and cell service.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Since Hurricane Maria shattered Puerto Rico, people have been going to San Juan’s International Airport to get off the island. Airport officials have their hands full, maintaining order, bringing in humanitarian aid flights, getting commercial flights out and providing water and food for hundreds of people who are stranded there. NPR’s John Burnett reports.
JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: This is the only working airport on the island. Unless people want to wait for a cruise ship, it’s the only way to escape Puerto Rico. The island has lost 80 percent of its electrical grid. Forty-four percent of the population has no running water. Terminal A of Luis Munoz Marin Airport is a sort of sweltering refugee camp. Lines snake through the building filled with sweating travelers who try to stay positive and pray their flights don’t get canceled.
ALBA CASTRO: There’s a possibility that there’s a flight for tomorrow morning in Delta. We are just, you know, praying for it.
BURNETT: That’s Alba Castro, a 37-year-old art teacher. She’s trying to get her and her mother, Maria, back to Orlando where they live. They came here 11 days ago to attend the funeral of her 93-year-old grandmother. They thought there would be enough time to get home before Hurricane Maria hit. But with so many Puerto Ricans evacuating, they couldn’t get a flight out. So they weathered the storm in her grandmother’s house in Mayaguez. Early this morning, they packed up water, sausages, crackers and headed here to the airport to wait for a flight. Because cell service is spotty, Castro says she’s only been able to speak to her family once. I asked her what she’d like to tell them.
CASTRO: That mommy’s trying to do everything that is possible to go back. I have a 16-year-old, a 7-year-old and a 2-year-old. They need me, you know, my students, my job, you know, if I don’t work. My kids, you know, it’s been more than a week without talking to them, seeing them, you know, being there for them. And it’s tough.
BURNETT: Friends Juan Natal and Raul Amado have it worse. The forklift operator and machinist have been sleeping on a concrete walkway outside the terminal since Saturday. They don’t have confirmed flights until the middle of next week….