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On the ground in Puerto Rico, shock over slow response

Marta Sostre Vazquez reacts as she wades into the San Lorenzo Morovis River with her family on Wednesday after a bridge was swept away. The family was returning to their home after visiting family on the other side. Photo: Gerald Herbert / AP

"I was stunned as I walked through the darkened and humid arrivals terminal at San Juan's International Airport two days after Hurricane Maria blasted its way across Puerto Rico," AP's Chris Gillette writes in a "Reporter's Notebook":

"It was quiet. No military air traffic control units on the tarmac directing planeloads of aid supplies, no bustling command center sending convoys of trucks to hard-hit areas."

  • "I covered Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Haiti earthquake of 2010, among many natural disasters over the course of 30 years in journalism."
  • "Disasters on the scale of Hurricane Maria are usually marked by the inspiring sight of thousands of military and federal emergency personnel flooding into the affected area. Navy ships offshore, dozens of helicopters and cargo planes flying overhead, military convoys heading into affected areas."
  • "Twenty-thousand troops were sent into New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina flooded the city and surrounding areas. Thousands of foreign aid workers rushed into Haiti after the earthquake there leveled Port-Au-Prince, the capital. Within three days of that quake, the U.S. had dispatched some half-dozen ships and 5,500 soldiers and Marines.
  • "In San Juan on Sept. 22, the only sign of relief efforts were beleaguered Puerto Rican government employees struggling to address the multitude of problems confronting the devastated island, while coping with their own losses from the storm."

Go deeper ... Fascinating N.Y. Times photos and gritty reporting, "Enduring a Day of Misery in Puerto Rico's Ruins: 24 Hours of Despair And Determination On a Battered Island."

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