Chicago crew helps power Puerto Rican town devastated by hurricane

AGUAS BUENAS, Puerto Rico — It's estimated that 15 to 20 percent of Puerto Ricans still don't have power six months after Hurricane Maria throttled the island.

On Friday, a small mountain town called Aguas Buenas finally got some relief — thanks in part to ComEd crews from Chicago that have been working in Puerto Rico since February.

WGN's Lourdes Duarte was on hand when the power finally came back on. Hugs and cheers all around.

Resident Jose Perez said he has a hard time even talking about life for the last six months. He's had to get really resourceful really quickly, he said, fixing old generators and finding new ones. Narrow roads are still lined with down power lines in the town of about 26,000 people.

Aguas Buenas is among the last towns to get power back.

Authorities said it could still take months to power up other towns, which is particularly worrisome with hurricane season just two months away. People are praying efforts speed up.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez joined a Chicago coalition Friday to tour Puerto Rico and bring along 5,200 pounds of donated supplies.

"Donald Trump may have turned his back on Puerto Rico, but Chicago has your back," Emanuel said.

ComEd crews said they've gotten help from locals who bring them coffee and clear debris from roads so that trucks can get through. Residents are even collecting money to prepare food for the crews.

One resident said the last six months have been "emotionally difficult."

"In order for us to survive," resident Marilou Colon said, "we have to work together, and we have to help each other out. Because there's no other way to survive if we don't. Sometimes, some neighbors won't have certain supplies, and we'll help them out with it. And maybe tomorrow, we won't have them and they'll help us."

The 5,200 pounds of donated goods include non-perishable items like medical equipment; they were collected by the Puerto Rican Agenda for distribution on the island.

“Chicago has a vibrant and strong Puerto Rican community that has answered the call to support their brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico from the first moments Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit,” Emanuel said in a statement. “Chicagoans have come together to raise money and donate supplies for the people of Puerto Rico, and we’re honored - and humbled -to deliver on those robust efforts this weekend.”

The plan is not to just bring much-needed supplies, but also to raise awareness to keep the story of this struggle alive.