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Scale of rebuilding Puerto Rico grows as teams discover extent of damage

With rescue teams only just reaching many interior parts of Puerto Rico the island faces years of work to repair the damage done by Hurricane Maria.

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Scale of rebuilding Puerto Rico grows as teams discover extent of damage

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Four days after Hurricane Maria swept across Puerto rico, rescue teams are only now reaching some of the more remote parts of the island.

Euronews’ partners NBC sent Gabe Gutierrez in with one of the rescue teams as it reached one isolated community.

People who have lost everything bring everything they can carry, and that is mostly drinking water. Wading through rushing water, gripping onto downed power lines that have become lifelines, they have escaped their homes in Morovis, which was cut off from the rest of the country when Hurricane Maria washed a key bridge away.

One woman told how everything on the other side of the river has been devastated.

The need here is massive, with rural parts of the island ravaged by the storm, including the mountain town of Utuado. NBC’s Tammy Leitner was there.

“We’ve been driving from community to community where people are desperate for water. Here outside Utuado they’ve jerry-rigged a PVC pipe to get river water, because there’s no drinking water anywhere on the island.”

In Northwest Puerto Rico engineers are inspecting the Guajataca dam, after finding a crack in it. If it bursts the authorities say the flooding will be life-threatening.

Riding along with a FEMA search and rescue team from Southern Florida, we made our way to the centre of the island.

“So we just spent the last hour trying to drive around and find out where to go and what needs to get done. And it seems like, because of the lack of communication, we’re coming up with a dead end,” says firefighter Greg Barhorst from Miami, a veteran of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and now Maria.

Meeting locals for the first time they find similar stories repeating themselves, over and over again. No-one is able to communicate, hampering rescue efforts.

“It’s pretty hard because I have to do two jobs at the same time, you know, I have to work with the people that need us and I also have to work with my own needs, you know,” says Morovis Police Officer Alfredo Delgado, whose own home was destroyed.

Throughout the island another vital commodity is scarce, and the hunt for fuel is becoming ever-more desperate.

“These are people that come from miles away. Cars without gas. Very tough, very tough,” said one man waiting in a queue for petrol at one of the few service stations still operating.

Rescue teams are clearing the way so that the island’s long recovery can begin, one mission at a time. As the work progresses it seems increasingly obvious that rebuilding will take months, if not years.