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Local Connecticut Political Leaders Focus On Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Hurricane Maria knocked out the power on Puerto Rico and the U.S. military, which is helping the island, says it is impossible to know when power will be restored. Communication is still really difficult. Family members elsewhere in the U.S. are left wondering how their relatives are doing and what they can do to help. Ryan Caron King from member station WNPR reports on what Puerto Ricans in Hartford, Conn., are doing.

RYAN CARON KING, BYLINE: Hartford City Councilman James Sanchez is listening to a briefing on Puerto Rico. For him it's personal. He hasn't heard from his family on the island since the storm began.

JAMES SANCHEZ: It is frustrating. It's frustrating waking up at 1, 2 in the morning, trying to call. You're trying to hope that they get that one little dot of a signal just to say, hey, are you OK?

CARON KING: Sanchez says his mother, who lives in the southwest corner of the island, prepared for the storm by freezing water to keep her fridge cold after the power went out.

SANCHEZ: I told her to go out to the yard, take down the plantains, bananas, dig up the roots, coconut, mangoes - grab whatever you can and put it in the house because this is going to be a very serious situation.

CARON KING: Officials are advising family members not to immediately travel to the island to help with relief efforts. But Sanchez says he plans to fly to Puerto Rico next week with camping gear and a chainsaw.

SANCHEZ: I'm going down there because I have the experience of cutting trees. You know, I was in the Marines. Survival is an instinct for me now.

CARON KING: Maribel La Luz has been trying to reach her 90-year-old grandfather since the storm hit. On a normal day, he's only a 15-minute drive from the rest of his family. They're in a condo with a generator, so they've been able to send an occasional text.

MARIBEL LA LUZ: And my grandfather, although he's 90 and although he's sharp as a tack and strong, we haven't been able to contact them. And so now we're starting to get really antsy and really worried.

CARON KING: La Luz lives in Hartford, but much of her father's family is on the island. And though the condo is safe, she says, water is limited and roads are hard to travel. And there's concern that at some point the diesel for the condo's generator will run out. Those are just the immediate concerns. But there are others.

LA LUZ: They're going to need stuff. They're asking me to send them, like, you know, batteries, battery-operated fans, flashlights, stuff like that. But I have no idea when or if I'm going to be able to send that. I don't know what that means.

CARON KING: So she and her family are anxious. They want to help out, but for the moment there's not much they can do.

LA LUZ: When you start to get concerned, you're just like, what options do we have? Do we - you know, are we going to walk down there? Are we going to, like, take a boat? We don't know. But we won't be able to sit on our hands too much longer because, you know, we're - it's our family.

CARON KING: Late Friday after that interview, La Luz got in touch with some good news. Her grandfather, Alejandro La Luz, had been reached. She even got a text message with a photo to prove it. For NPR News, I'm Ryan Caron King in Hartford.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLACK CAT'S "CAN'T STOP SMILING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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