BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The island of Vieques is just 7 miles from Puerto Rico. Right now, it might as well be 7,000. It was destroyed by Hurricane Maria, almost entirely cut off and a black hole of information. Now, some Vermonters offering help from home are struggling to get it there.
Battered and still waiting in the heat. Islanders cut off from the rest of the world. The only contact-- a delivery of a few satellite phones that just arrived. People are running out of food and water.
Vieques is a small island-municipality off Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory. Residents are U.S. citizens. The vacation lover's paradise now looks more like a war zone. Homes are destroyed and there's no power. And with relief aid finally arriving on the mainland of Puerto Rico, the 9,000 residents in Vieques worry they have been forgotten and will be the last to get help.
"It's now life or death for some people," said Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, P/D-Vermont.
Zuckerman's family owns property in Vieques. Zuckerman has been frantically trying to reach FEMA to let officials know there's water available at their vacation home and others, about 100,000 gallons stored in cisterns. They just need someone to get it and distribute it.
"We've gotten the word that the water is there. But seems like it is such a chaotic situation and there really aren't the resources from the federal level... from the president down getting people there to really get things like this water distributed," Zuckerman said.
The lieutenant governor alerted the Vermont National Guard and our congressional delegation and says Rep. Peter Welch finally got FEMA to respond. But he worries the agency's slow response will result in more people dying.
"Now they are aware that the water is there but they haven't said, OK, where is the water? How do we get to it? What's the logistics on the ground," Zuckerman said.
Making matters worse there-- looting and violence, people desperate for food and water stealing whatever they can get.