South Florida donations delivered to people in Puerto Rico

Doctors estimate death toll to be in the thousands

By Christian De La Rosa - Reporter

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - More than a month after Hurricane Maria made landfall, many residents in Puerto Rico are still struggling to get basic necessities. 

But thanks to private donations from people in South Florida, one organization was able to arrive with aid Monday morning. 

About an hour southeast of San Juan is the town of Juncos, where many people have yet to receive adequate help.

In the community of La Hormiga, Local 10 News reporter Christian De La Rosa met Zuleyka Santos, who couldn't hold back her tears as she showed him where her home once stood before Hurricane Maria.

She said she had received one care package from the local government after the hurricane. 

Santos and others in her neighborhood were grateful Monday evening as they received some much-needed supplies.

"The government is dealing with a lot of things, and I'm not saying they're not doing their job. They're doing their job and they're doing what they can," community organizer Jean Diaz said. 

Volunteers with the organization, We Do Better, passed out backpacks to residents that were filled with water, food, toiletries and other items, like portable phone chargers that were already charged.

The flight and the aid were paid for by private donations from South Florida that the organization helped get straight into the hands of those who need it most.

Volunteers said they refuse to go through the island's governor's office to distribute the help.

"The information that we were getting on the ground is that the aid that was going through the office of the governor was not getting to the people, at least quickly," Bobby Rodriguez said. 

The plane also brought in medical supplies from the Miami-based organization, Doctors 4 Puerto Rico. 

Members of the nonprofit said a month many hospitals are still in crisis mode a month after the storm.

The official death toll from hurricane Maria has now reached at least 48.

"The death toll was set at 48," Dr. Luis Aranguren said.

"Based on what you've seen and what you've heard, is that accurate to you?" De La Rosa asked. 

"It's not," Aranguren said. "The morgue's full."

"Where do you think the death toll stands right now?" De La Rosa asked.

"It's very difficult to estimate, because I haven't seen in every hospital, but I think it's in the thousands," Aranguren said.

As of this week, 80 percent of the island still is without power and doctors say generators at some hospitals are failing.

The governor of Puerto Rico has said he has a plan to restore electricity to most of the island by the end of the year.

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