In Puerto Rico after Maria, 'we've got nothing and we don't know for how long we'll go without'

JUDY WOODRUFF: Hurricane Maria continued her march across the Caribbean, still as a powerful Category 3 storm. Puerto Rico is dealing with a dam failure in the western part of the island; 70,000 people are in the process of being evacuated.

Damage estimates have already reached $45 billion for the Caribbean islands in the storm's path. And all told, at least 27 have been blamed on Maria.

John Yang has more.

JOHN YANG: Across waterlogged Puerto Rico, many of the 3.4 million residents have been forced from their homes. Two days after Maria made landfall, knocking out power and communications, the personal stories of facing the storm's wrath are just emerging.

These women live in Salinas, along the southeast coast.

WOMAN (through interpreter): A lot of trees and many, many houses destroyed and boats on the ground. The power and the water are out, everything, everything. We don't have anything. We have got nothing and we don't know for how long we will go without.

DAVILA SANTANA, Salinas Resident (through interpreter): It came when my son said that we have lost everything. It took our house. It's tough, but we're going to start over.

MAN: What are you going to do now?

WOMAN (through interpreter): We're going to the shelter.

JOHN YANG: Governor Ricardo Rossello reports complete devastation. Damage estimates reached $30 billion on Puerto Rico alone.

With areas submerged beneath floodwaters, the U.S. military and Federal Emergency Management Agency began airlifting aid, water, food, generators and temporary shelters.

MAJ. GEN. DEREK RYDHOLM, Deputy Chief, Air Force Reserve: We're able to fly on our mobility aircraft, firefighters, search-and-rescue and other civil support as well. Until probably today, there was no real understanding at all of the level, the gravity of the situation.

JOHN YANG: Today, Maria kept churning north, lashing the Turks and Caicos. The Eastern Bahamas are next, and then is forecast to make a slight turn east into the open Atlantic.

Damage to Saint Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the tiny island of Dominica was also extensive. Both islands have no power and curfews are in place to prevent looting.

It could take years for some of the Caribbean islands to fully recover from Hurricanes Maria and Irma. That includes nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

Sir Rodney Williams is the governor general. A family physician, he is currently on a medical mission in the United States. He joins us from Annapolis, Maryland.

Your Excellency, let me — can I start by asking you what conditions are like on Antigua and Barbuda?

GOVERNOR GENERAL RODNEY WILLIAMS, Antigua and Barbuda: Well, in the phase now where we're trying to rebuild.

And the whole question is, how do we deal with the people from Barbuda in particular, because we are concerned about their well-being, their protection and their social needs. And the persons from — all the people from Barbuda are now in Antigua, and some living with family, some living with friends, and some living in shelters.

I must say that the government and the various agencies did a very good job in educating the population prior to and during the hurricane. And now it's time to rebuild. We have actually accommodated 500 schoolchildren in schools in Antigua.

And we have also put their teachers to those schools so that they can be feeling comfortable. Presently, the government is working on some accommodation to make them more private and more comfortable by restructuring a hotel. There's an old nurses' hostel that is being renovated as well.

And there's an old Pan Am base on the island that they're putting things in order so that the Barbuda on Antigua and Barbuda can have their own private accommodation. And things are moving along rather smoothly.

JOHN YANG: And, as you say, all the people from Barbuda have been moved to Antigua.

How long do you think they are going to have to stay there?

GOVERNOR GENERAL RODNEY WILLIAMS: Well, that is a very difficult question for me to answer.

A lot will depend on what they find on the ground. Right now, they're cleaning up Barbuda. They have been able to bury the dead animals and they're cleaning up the debris on the island. And persons from Barbuda have been allowed to go back on a daily basis to protect their assets and then they return at night to Antigua.

There are teams on the ground looking at Barbuda and looking at what is needed. From my understanding, they are trying to ensure that the rebuilding of Barbuda takes into account the type of island that we want to bring back.

We have got to develop innovative ways and ensure that we have some of the best engineers and technicians who will advise as to how we will build the country, the island, because we're going to have to make sure that the buildings that we put up are durable and that it is sustainable in the long run.

JOHN YANG: Sir Rodney Williams, governor general of Antigua and Barbuda, thanks so much for joining us.

GOVERNOR GENERAL RODNEY WILLIAMS: Thank you for having me on, sir.

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