With estimates as long as ten months before power can be restored fully in some areas decimated by Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico’s undoubtedly monumental recovery effort remains far from the minds of stranded residents desperate for medical services and more unable to leave — so the rapper known as Pitbull stepped up to the plate, and will send his private jet to ferry cancer patients in need of chemotherapy to the U.S. mainland.
“Thank you @pitbull for lending your private plane to move cancer patients from PR to USA so that they can get chemo,” Puerto Rico Congresswoman Jennifer Gonzales tweeted in appreciation of musician’s humanitarian plan.
In an emailed statement to the New York Daily News, Pitbull explained, “Thank God we’re blessed to help. Just doing my part.”
But the rapper from Miami wasn’t the only mogul to offer personal aid to Americans devastated by Maria.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban agreed to lend Puerto Rico native and point guard J.J. Barea the basketball team’s plane in order for the athlete to transport water, food, and any additional needed supplies — such as insulin, which requires refrigeration, and oxygen — to the island, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, reports Business Insider. Together with his Puerto Rican actress and model wife, Viviana Ortiz, Barea has raised over $140,000 in a relief fund for victims of the hurricane.
“Mark gave him our team plane,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle confirmed of Cuban’s timely loan. “They loaded up a bunch of stuff, supplies, etc., to take over to Puerto Rico, and they’re going to turn around and come back. He’s going to take his mom and grandmother back with him, and my understanding is his dad is going to stay over there and slug it out with all of the recovery efforts.”
Maria smashed into Puerto Rico as a monster Category 4 hurricane, with 155 m.p.h. winds knocking out power for 100 percent of the island — a situation not expected to be remedied for up to a full year or more, by some estimates — flooding major urban areas, leveling buildings, and rendering medical aid, sanitation, hygiene, assistance, and the tasks of daily life a Herculean task, if not a veritable impossibility. Thus far, 26 people have died from the effects of Maria.
Hospitals have not been able to keep up with the stream of patients — many suffering trauma and severe injuries — as a lack of power, gas, food, and clean water threaten to amplify the crisis of supply and assistance into one of disease and contagion. Dengue fever and the Zika virus — among other dangers — as CNN notes, are indeed realistic possibilities for the warm and now-sodden environment.
“We’ve seen a lot of trauma,” Dr. Norbert Seba of Canovanas Medical Center told CNN Tuesday. “We need medication, antibiotics, tetanus shots, we’ve seen a lot of trauma basically, (we need) antibiotics and medication for hypertension.”
While the supply and power shortage has yet to take lives, the doctor believes it’s realistic to expect fatalities without bolstering those soon.
“It’s coming,” Seba lamented. “When there’s a shortage of water and sanitation issues, it will come out. We are expecting something like that to happen.”
In capital city San Juan, the situation appears equally as grim.
“We are dealing with a crisis right now,” San Jorge Children’s Hospital Executive Director Domingo Cruz Vivaldi asserted. “The hospital is needing diesel every day — 2,000 gallons a day. Yesterday, we ran out of diesel at 6 a.m. and we were without electricity at the hospital from 6 a.m. through 2 p.m. 8 hours without electricity.”
Without primary power restored, staff at various hospitals fear energy-mandatory treatments like dialysis and ventilation will quickly be jeopardized by dwindling backup supplies.
“We are finding dialysis patients that have not been able to contact their providers. We are having to transport them in near death conditions,” opined San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz. “We are finding people whose oxygen tanks are running out because our small generators now don’t have any diesel.”
But what gravely concerns the mayor and others are emergency SOS messages — “the ones that say ‘Can anyone hear me?’ The ones that say ‘I have no more food and I’m out in the street.’”
Calls for the president to address Puerto Rico’s precarious situation have instead been answered with blindness to the misery and suffering of American citizens, as the Washington Post reports today, “The Trump administration says it is not planning to waive federal restrictions on foreign ships’ transportation of cargo to Puerto Rico and other areas affected by Hurricane Maria, as it did following hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
“A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security says officials believe there is sufficient capacity of U.S.-flagged vessels to move goods to Puerto Rico. Spokesman David Lapan said most of the humanitarian shipments to Puerto Rico will be through barges, which make up a significant portion of the U.S.-flagged cargo fleet.
“DHS waived Jones Act restrictions during Harvey and Irma in order to move oil more quickly to the East Coast and make up for the loss of pipelines.”
New York Representative Nydia Velazquez requested a Jones Act waiver, while top Democrat Nancy Pelosi instead championed the need for military intervention in Puerto Rico for search-and-rescue and other duties — neither of which have yet been granted.
Perhaps — with the Trump administration floundering horrendously on the topic of compassion and duty of late — it will be the efforts of private citizens with resources, like Pitbull and Cuban, and activists and humanitarians, like We Do Better, assisting their fellow Americans infinitely more efficiently and humbly than government ever could.
(Featured image: Pitbull. Steven Lawton/FilmMagic, Puerto Rican Devastation. CNN)