Maribel Valentin Espino at home five days after Hurricane Maria caused vast damage in Puerto Rico. She said she has gotten no help from the government. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

Many people in Puerto Rico have seen no government help since Hurricane Maria tore up the U.S. territory last week, leaving nearly all 3.4 million people on the island without power and most without water.

"People say [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] is going to help us," said Maribel Valentin Espino, standing in her waterlogged home. "We're waiting."

The recovery has largely been a do-it-yourself affair for many residents outside San Juan, the capital. People collect water from wells and streams, clear roads and repair their own homes.

Several thousand U.S. federal employees are in Puerto Rico, but they are mostly visible in San Juan. They have supplied generators to hospitals and food and water to hard-hit communities. They have fixed power at the airport and are working on the island's electrical grid.

Governor Ricardo Rosselló and Jenniffer González-Colón, the island's representative in Congress, say they intend to seek more than $1 billion in federal aid.

Still, it is hard to avoid the fact that the response looks different from previous ones. After hurricanes in Louisiana, Texas and Florida, waves of trucks from power companies in other states descended in long convoys, something that is obviously not possible on an island 1,000 miles southeast of the U.S. mainland. After the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, the U.S. military sent ships, and the skies over Haiti seemed to be filled with heavy-lift helicopters and planes carrying emergency relief, though the scale of that disaster was far worse.


People wait in line outside a grocery store Monday to buy food that wouldn't spoil in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Nearly all of Puerto Rico was without power or water five days after the hurricane. (Ben Fox/AP)

Hurricane Maria was the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in nearly 100 years, and officials say the cost of recovery will be much larger than that of the punishing Hurricane Georges in 1998. Whatever the final bill, Valentin just hopes it will factor in people like her. "If FEMA helps us, we are going to build again," she said.

— Associated Press