Puerto Rico is stronger after Hurricane Maria, residents say

Homeland Security personnel delivers supplies to Santa Ana community residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Guayama Puerto Rico Oct. 5 2017

Carlos Giusti AP FILE

Rosario, who is incapacitated by diabetes and a blood disease, took a loan to upgrade her home before the storm hit, and lost everything.

"Seeing where I grew up not looking the same and thinking if everyone was okay when I couldn't know if they were or they weren't", Hernandez said.

"I feel so safe, so secure, and I thank God every day that they gave me the opportunity", Valentin said.

The storm knocked out power and communications to virtually all of Puerto Rico's 3.2 million residents, while destroying the homes of thousands. The hit happened amid a deep recession. "Three thousand people died on his watch".

"Puerto Rico is a colonial territory", and therein lies the "inherent difficulty", Rosello said in an interview with local radio WKAQ 580, as commemoration ceremonies for the hurricane victims were under way.

On Thursday, Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, announced in San Juan that $1.5 billion was being released to Puerto Rico as part of the overall $20 billion pledged for rebuilding, the largest in the agency's history.

For Carson, the disbursement of HUD funds "paves the way for a speedy, long-term recovery", but he warned that the "path forward is challenging, and will be measured not in months, but rather in years".

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite of Hurricane Maria as it reached its most powerful point on September 20, 2017, just as it reached Puerto Rico.

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"We lost people, roofs and houses, but our community worked hard to get back on its feet", said Wilfredo Lopez, a community leader of the Sonadora neighborhood in Aguas Buenas, which had disaster-trained residents and its own protocols in place before the storm hit.

Amid midterm elections in Florida, Sen.

Bitter debates still rage over the failings of the United States government's response to the Category 4 storm in Puerto Rico and the awful human toll it took.

"This should not happen in America to our fellow USA citizens", Nelson said during a news conference. He was the only child in Puerto Rico with the disease.

Nivia Rodriguez, a 60-year-old retiree whose uncle died a week after Maria, is among those disgruntled by Trump's comments, as well as by videos of rescue crews responding to Hurricane Florence in North Carolina. Flags fluttered at half mast across the island and in Florida, where many Puerto Ricans who fled the hurricane moved to live. Major power outages are still being reported, tens of thousands of insurance claims are still pending and almost 60,000 homes still have temporary roofs unable to withstand a Category 1 hurricane.

Organizers say they're planning on another trip to Puerto Rico. Edna Velazquez lives in Humacao, a coastal municipality north of Yabucoa, where the storm made landfall.

"I think it's inexplicable", Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International's secretary general, told The Associated Press during a visit to the island Thursday. What we went through was terrible.

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