DAVID BEGNAUD, CBS News:
Well, let me tell you this.
The governor of Puerto Rico said this morning that he’s aware of those reports and that they’re looking into it. What’s concerning, William, is that three weeks after the storm and at least a week after the allegations first surfaced that people might be trying to drink from toxic wells at what’s known as Superfund sites, the governor of Puerto Rico is still saying, we’re looking into it and telling people to stay out of rivers where sewage may be spilling into the river.
And, he said, we want them to stay away from the coastal areas.
How are people doing? They’re still desperate to get water. No one seems to be able to figure out how to get enough water to every single person on that island who needs it. And as long as people need water, it’s still an emergency phase.
Nearly four weeks later, no one seems to be able to move from the emergency to the recovery.
Look, they have got the PVC pipes tapped into the mountains so that it’s coming out of the stream that way. And they literally are — I saw a woman walk up to a potable water tank that the military had brought in, and she had a Clorox bottle.
And I said, “Ma’am, you’re putting drinkable water in a Clorox bottle?”
And she said, “It’s all I have got.”
Now, that was a good scenario. The other scenarios are people right now who are drinking from streams and creeks and rivers who have no water filters, who have nothing, right? They’re just taking this water.
Now, listen, the government got a million water-purifying tablets within the last week. It took almost three weeks to get those. Now there’s a large push to bring in water filters.
I have got to tell you, most of the water filters I’m seeing brought in are coming from the private sector, and civilian samaritans who are getting 1,000 or more from the mainland and flying them over to Puerto Rico and personally hand-delivering them.
The two men running the ship told us that nearly 87 percent of the ship is empty. Sounds alarming, right? They have 200 beds, and 87 percent are empty.
Now, here’s what they said: We stand ready for whatever the government wants to do. We are waiting to be told by the government.
So, I went to the governor, and said exactly what’s happening. And he said: “Look, I’m not satisfied with what the protocol was from the beginning.”
He said, initially, they were prioritizing only the most critically ill patients go to the Comfort. And he said there was a layered process that was complicating things.
So, the governor, Ricardo Rossello, said: “I started to take out some of those layers, and I, said, listen, take people on the ship who may not be critically ill, but need good medical care and can’t get it at the hospital, where the lights are flickering and the A.C. is not running.”
That’s what the governor said.
Within a matter of hours, I got a tweet from a third-year medical student who said: “Let me tell you what a nightmare it has been to reach the Comfort.”
He said: “We have got a pediatric patient who desperately needs to get off this island, either to a hospital on the mainland or to the Comfort.”
And he said: “I went through Google and the local newspaper to find the number. I couldn’t find it.”
Now, here is how things work. Within about 30 minutes of that tweet going out and that medical student’s story being posted, the governor’s spokesperson responded with numbers that should be able to help.
The bottom line here, William, is that asking relentless questions and the good work of journalism is what’s making a difference there. It’s no one person. There’s no heroic work that’s being done by any journalist, other than people who are going back to the same officials and asking some of the same questions, relentlessly seeking the right answer that will make a difference.
So, the shipping containers you’re talking about, about 3,000 sitting in the Port of San Juan, have been moved out, not all of them, but a majority of them.
And they were intended for grocery stores around the island. Right? So, those were private companies that had brought in these shipping containers, paid for the supplies, but couldn’t move them because their truck drivers were either at home, because the home had been destroyed, or the road was impassable.
More and more supplies are getting out. But let me tell you, the grocery stores around the island, they have a lot of nonperishables, Pringles, candy, cookies, all on the shelf.
But when you go to the meat section, it’s nearly 75 percent empty at the stores we have been to, the produce section 90 percent empty. And finding bottled water there is almost like playing a game.