>> Nearly all cellphones across Puerto Rico display one frustrating message these days, no service. A week after Hurricane Maria slammed into the US territory, knocking out its electric grid and destroying cell towers and antennas. Residents are frantically searching for places that do have a signal.>> Lots of people are looking for places trying to get a signal to speak to family members outside Puerto Rico, and in other places across the island.
And word keeps spreading, that hey, such and such place, has a signal.>> The territory's relative isolation is a huge impediment to finding a fix. When hurricane Harvey hit Texas and Irma slammed Florida, mobile phone companies were able to get personnel and equipment from other states to restore service within a week.
But any heavy equipment must be sent to Puerto Rico by ship. Once there, moving it to distant parts of the island is tough due to damaged roads. On Thursday, the White House waiving the Jones Act, loosening shipping regulations, allowing foreign ships to swiftly and cheaply deliver much needed supplies.
Some in Puerto Rico have tried to fill the void. Radio news host Louie Penchi, says his station stayed on the air because it has maintained its old analog broadcasting capacity. Which isn't dependent on electricity to carry a signal. Broadcasting more than 25 hours straight during the height of the storm, Penchi says it was a mission God tasked me with.
>> I didn't realise I was the only one who was on the air. Other stations went off the air, and still the majority of them haven't come back, so this station has basically been the only network on the radio that in these times has coverage for the whole country.
>> WAPA has been delivering around the clock news, advice, messages and pleas for assistance from listeners desperate to connect with loved ones. Some have physically walked into the station to have messages read on the air. The radio station's old-school resourcefulness coming in handy for the island's 3.4 million people during this moment of crisis.