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South Florida residents await word from family in Puerto Rico

Jose Cruz is waiting to hear from loved ones in Puerto Rico. (WPEC)

The desperation in Puerto Rico is growing in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

It’s been one week since the deadly storm and the island’s electrical grid is still down.

It’s making it difficult for people in Florida like Jose Cruz who are growing restless waiting to hear if their loved ones on the island are alive and well.

Cruz is praying that his father is safe.

“We haven’t heard from him,” he said. “I look at it every day and say prayers and hope that he’s OK. We really don’t know much about him other than that someone spotted him and said he was OK."

The situation is going from bad to worse on the island. There’s no power and food, water, medicine and fuel are running out.

“We’re feeling hurt, we’re feeling concerned, we’re feeling worried,” Cruz said. “My father has a heart condition. He’s 81 years old.”

Cruz’s family members live outside of Ponce. They tell him the relief effort is concentrated in the capital of San Juan and the entire island desperately needs more aid.

The Jones Act is prohibiting foreign flagged vessels from picking up and delivering fuel between U.S. ports to the island.

It was suspended this month to allow shipments to Florida and Texas after Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

There are now many members of Congress asking the Trump administration to consider suspending it again.

However, congresswoman Lois Frankel said it might be difficult.

“The Jones Act is subject for debate possibly as the recovery goes on, but they’re really probably is not a way to refocus some of the ships that we’re talking about which would be foreign flagged ships to bring supplies in,” she said. “I think right now the response has to be a military response by the United States Government.”

The Trump administration is currently sending more military personnel and ships to Puerto Rico.

While most people have no way off the island right now, Frankel says Florida may see an influx of people coming from Puerto Rico in the future.

“Florida, especially South Florida and the Orlando area, will be a place where folks may come,” she said.

She added that the Sunshine State would be ready and waiting with open arms.

“This is a state that handles hundreds of millions of visitors a year," she said. "New people bring new jobs and actually help the economy so I think in terms of assimilation Florida is up for the challenge."

President Donald Trump plans to visit Puerto Rico next week.

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