WEST PALM BEACH -- Many residents of Broward County, Florida remain without food, water or medical supplies days after being pummeled by a stronger-than-expected Hurricane Wilma.
RAW STORY's Larisa Alexandrovna, who lives in the county, said the situation is far worse than the mainstream press is reporting. She believes part of this is due to the fact that residents are without phone service and largely unable to reach the outside world.
"There is no food," Alexandrovna said. "The Salvation Army said that they would provide some dinners for people, but aside from the Salvation Army" there is little aid.
Calling into RAW STORY from a payphone at the West Palm Beach airport, since home and cell phone service have been adversely affected, Larisa explained, "We can't call out. No one's covering this because they think if there were problems people would call, but we can't."
"There are a lot of elderly people who can't call 911," she added.
Alexandrovna noted that the hurricane devastated her parents' retirement community.
"My parents live in a retirement community and the roof of their building was ripped off," she said. "Cars were thrown around. They have no electricity, no phone, and no one has come to help them. The police haven't come to help them."
FEMA has arrived on scene in some locations but has scant supplies. In many areas, supplies have run out. One FEMA representative told Floridians on a local radio station that they should call in or file requests online. Alexandrovna said she found the statement absurd because so many were without power and phone service.
According to the Florida Sun-Sentinel, at least one water distribution site in Miami-Dade was out of supplies, and several other FEMA sites were running low on aid.
Hurricane-hit locals can buy supplies -- which are being rationed -- from local merchants.
But "they only take cash," Alexandrovna averred. "If you don't have any cash, you're screwed. If you're poor, you're screwed."
Residents are now without fresh water in many locations because sewage has tainted the supply.
One police officer from Plantation, who asked that his name not be used, said that police have direct orders to guard gas stations and stores. The claim jibes with a report in the Sun-Sentinel which stated that police were guarding gas stations.
"They're not guiding traffic, and they're not picking up debris on the road," Alexandrovna remarked. "There is one car accident after another because there's nobody [to clear roads]." An Associated Press report indicated police were directing traffic in some parts of Broward County.
Those who depend on medicine to survive are also hard-up. Alexandrovna found one woman sitting outside a local Walgreens crying. The woman was seeking insulin for her diabetes.
Tracy Christmas, of Tamarac, told of being sent to a location for water, where she stood in line for about six hours. The Salvation Army arrived with limited supplies; there was only enough for a few people in the front and those waiting empty-handed were told to go home.
Because the phones are down and relief has yet to arrive, Alexandrovna emphasized that the gravity of the crisis remains unknown.
"I know people aren't drowning here, but we don't know how many people are dead because nobody's bothered to check," she said. "They're stuck in their homes."
In the absence of federal and local authorities, she called on those near to the hurricane-hit zone to stock up on food and water and bring relief themselves.
"Tell people to get in their cars and pile them up with water and get down there," she said.
"On top of water, we need ice, because during the day it gets hot, and at night it's gotten really, really cold," she added. "You're talking about elderly who don't have heat, who don't have water."
Originally published on Wednesday October 26, 2005.