Only days after Hurricane Irma brought devastation to Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria slammed into the island, leaving Puerto Rico’s citizens plunged into darkness as law enforcement struggles to maintain order.  SOFREP has learned from sources on the ground that the prison complex in Bayamon has been compromised, with prisoners now reportedly taking part in widespread looting.

Brenda Gallardo, a local woman who works with investors, huddled with her four-year-old daughter for eight hours inside the small bathroom of her townhouse as Hurricane Maria decimated her community.  When it was over, she emerged from her home to find what she referred to as “complete destruction.”

Gallardo knew that her home was no longer safe for her and her daughter, so she made a decision: she’d get into her vehicle and attempt to traverse the tree-strewn roads to reach her brother’s house, which is normally no more than a fifteen minute jaunt away.  What followed was two and a half hours of blocked roads, looting, and nervous warnings from the few law enforcement officers she encountered.

The police told me they’ve had no contact with their families, and that there aren’t enough officers to go around.  They’re doing their best, but there’s devastation everywhere.”  Brenda said.  “They told me that the prisoners have escaped… and every store I saw on the way had already been looted.”

Brenda had bars on the windows of her townhouse, but knew that she and her daughter would not be safe alone.  At her brother’s house, where the rest of her family, including her father who works as a local doctor, are sheltering, they have a generator and water that they stored in preparation for the storm.

“We’re fortunate to have the generator and this water… but we don’t know how long it will last.  I heard on the radio that the Air Force is coming to help, but I can see the airport and there’s no movement there.” Brenda relayed as she surveyed the damage in the area around her brother’s home.

“I just wish I had a gun… I wish I had some way to protect my daughter.”

Refugees from the Virgin Island, which saw the full wrath of Hurricane Irma, fled to Puerto Rico for shelter after the storm and now find themselves, once again, without food, water, or a clear timeline for when aid will arrive.  With no power on the island, no fresh drinking water aside from any residents may have set aside, and no clear timeline for recovery, the residents of Puerto Rico are growing desperate.  Some looting, undoubtedly, has been for survival needs, but Brenda made it clear that some residents have taken advantage of the literally and metaphorically powerless island’s plight.

“They even emptied the furniture store.”  She explained.

Hurricane Maria is now considered to be the most powerful storm to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years, and it’s the third to batter the Caribbean thus far this year.  Flooding throughout the island has hampered rescue efforts, and the hospital near Brenda’s family has been closed for weeks as a result of Irma’s destruction.

“My father is a doctor, but he hasn’t had a place to work in three weeks… he has patients he’s worried about.  He had a breakdown today just thinking about it.”  Brenda relayed.  Unfortunately, despite the treacherous circumstances, Brenda and her family may be among the lucky ones.  Sheltering together may grant them some level of safety from looters, and as long as they ration their water, they may have enough to get through this.  Many others on the island, Brenda told me, are not so lucky.

“Police told me it’s only going to get worse before things start to get better.” Brenda said before having to hang up the phone.


Image courtesy of the Associated Press