Puerto Rico mayor delivers food and finds desperation

Story highlights

  • In a hillside community, the mayor is delivering aid door to door
  • But weeks after the hurricane, he is still finding people who need more help

Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico (CNN)The mayor has supplies of water and food. Now he just has to get it to the residents of his hilltop community.

Already he and his team have knocked on 8,000 doors but there are still many families he hasn't been able to check on.
And no one knows what kind of situation they will find with each new visit.
    Today, Mayor Javier Garcia Perez uncovers a desperate case.
    Anita Ortiz is inside a shattered building, sitting on a bed that's soaking wet from the rain. Everything is wet in this house with no roof, and there's a thick smell of mold.
    Anita Ortiz waits for help, nearly a month after Hurricane Maria, in her drenched  home.
    "You finally came!" the woman and her family tell the mayor. Ortiz's sister-in-law cries on his shoulder. "We're so grateful that God sent you here," she tells him. "You see the conditions here. Please excuse me. The quickest help possible. Please! She needs it!"
    Ortiz's family has been trying to get her to move to a shelter, but she's too attached to her home. She has been here since 1979 when her eldest son was born. He died in 2009 and his mother just won't leave the family home.
    "We're going to start helping her now," Garcia says. "We're going to move her to a more secure location."
    Even weeks after the storm, more and more victims are being found.
    Three members of his community perished when Hurricane Maria smashed into Puerto Rico on September 20 and Garcia says another 12 died in the chaotic aftermath. Perhaps some could have been saved if there had been power, he says.
    And while he can help Anita Ortiz now, there are probably more like her waiting to be found.
    "This is not rare," he says "We encounter these cases. There are places where people can shelter with family and friends but you'll find a lot of people like this."
    Shaken by what he's seen, he heads out with more supplies -- a case of water for each family, pork and tuna among other groceries.
    Aguas Buenas Mayor Javier Garcia Perez delivers water as he checks on his community.
    Some are from FEMA, some from private donations. Some are brought up the mountain roads by the military, other times they are picked up from a distribution center.
    But then Garcia and his team of officials and volunteers make sure packs are delivered directly to houses.
    He's aware of the criticism from President Trump that aid is not being distributed well but says it's not the same everywhere.
    Indeed, there are 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico, which means 78 mayors with different skills and methods to get help where it is needed.
    In the southern town of Patillas, the island's secretary of state says he was outraged to find a dumpster full of spoiled food and unused fresh water.
    Garcia swears that wouldn't happen here.
    "Every road in Aguas Buenas is clean and we have access," he says. "When the person goes direct to the house, it's the best plan to make sure all the food and water reaches its place."
    The town still needs more tarps to replace roofs ripped off by the storm. Thunderstorms and downpours this week have made that need even more acute.
    As for what else he will find and what else he will need, that's hard to know. While more than 8,000 homes have been checked on, Mayor Garcia has about 1,500 more to go.