Bay area residents lose contact with loved ones in Puerto Rico as Maria hits

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Nilsa Garcia owns Nilsa’s Puerto Rican Bistro in Tampa.

She’s lived in the United States for more than 17 years, but still has family there.

Tuesday night she called her sister on the island as Hurricane Maria approached.  “She was feeling the wrath of it and this morning I couldn’t contact her,” said Garcia.

Puerto Rico’s Governor reports 100 percent of the island is now without power.  Garcia and many others have been unable to contact friends and family since the hurricane hit.

“I hope they are okay. That’s the only thing I can pray for,” Garcia said.

Maria is the most powerful hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in at least 85 years.  Wind speeds were measured at 155 miles an hour and reports of destruction and flooding are widespread.

Garcia and many others are worried about how Puerto Rico will be able to recover. The island was already facing financial problems and bankruptcy before Maria hit.
“Puerto Rico is in bad shape right now, financially and all around, so to get hit by this hurricane is going to devastate Puerto Rico, this is going to be bad,” said Garcia.

Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder is the CEO of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce based in Sarasota.  She has friends, family and a number of contacts in Puerto Rico.

Cuevas-Neunder spoke to her sister this morning as the storm was over the island.  “The eye was going right threw and it was calm and she said the devastation was horrendous,” said Cuevas-Neunder.

She is now working on a relief effort, but believes it may be years before the U.S. Territory recovers from Maria.

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