San Juan mayor says people are ‘gasping for air’ as Maria cripples Puerto Rico

After Hurricane Maria knocked out electricity to all of Puerto Rico, residents of the U.S. territory are “gasping for air” in the brutal heat, says the mayor of the island’s capital city of San Juan.

“What’s out there is total devastation. Total annihilation. People literally gasping for air. I personally have taken people out and put them in ambulances because their generator has run out,” Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told ABC News.

Cruz said Puerto Rico has been prepared for major storms since the end of August, when Hurricane Irma was approaching. Irma slammed into the island and caused deaths and devastation, and was soon followed by the catastrophic hit of Maria. Parts of the island have now gone several weeks without running water and electricity.

Gerald Herbert/AP
Jose Garcia Vicente walks through rubble of his destroyed home, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Aibonito, Puerto Rico, Sept. 25, 2017.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello says the island is facing an “unprecedented disaster” in the wake of Maria, which tore through on Sept. 20, killing at least 16, demolishing homes and leaving long lines of residents desperate for gas.

SLIDESHOW: Photos: Hurricane Maria pummels Puerto Rico, Caribbean

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A few stores have reopened across the island, but most remain closed due to power outages. By Monday night, at least 5 percent of electricity had been restored across the island.

Gerald Herbert/AP
Jose Garcia Vicente, right, works with Jose Colon, as he starts to salvage his destroyed home, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Aibonito, Puerto Rico, Sept. 25, 2017.

Officials said electrical power may not be fully restored for more than a month, according to The Associated Press.

FEMA and federal partners have provided over 4 million meals, over 6 million liters of water, 70,000 tarps and 15,000 rolls of roof sheeting to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, a FEMA spokesperson said. An additional 7 million meals and 4 million liters of water are en route, with even more federal supplies coming, the spokesperson said.

Carlos Giusti/AP
A destroyed building in the of El Gandul Community in Santurce is seen after Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sept. 25, 2017.
Carlos Giusti/AP
A bed surrounded by debris after Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sept. 25, 2017.

Cruz praised the efforts of FEMA workers, calling them “good people” who “want to help,” but added that, “the chain of command needs to work a little faster…

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