Around 4,000 hurricane evacuees from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands arrived at Port Everglades Tuesday aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.
Anxious South Floridians reunited with family members fleeing the devastation of Hurricanes Maria and Irma.
Gloria Fredericks came from Saint Croix to stay with her two daughters in Pembroke Pines. Her home -- and neighborhood -- were destroyed by the storm.
“The houses are devastated, ” said Fredericks “The roofs are gone. There is no electricity or running water. You have to make long lines to get food and gasoline for generators.”
Fredericks’s daughter Maritza Evans said the wait has been emotional.
“It’s been overwhelming,” said Evans. “We were worried about her all the time. Now we get to spoil her and hear her stories.”
The ship also carried tourists to South Florida that have been stranded due to the devastation. Juan Ramirez and his girlfriend, Jessica McDonald, were vacationing in Puerto Rico from Kentucky when Hurricane Maria hit.
“We got stuck,” Ramirez said. “No flights back, no assistance. Eight days. We were really struggling — eating once a day if we could. It’s bad.”
Some passengers on the ship were just desperate to get out. Many had no family or resources in South Florida, according to United Way of Broward President Kathleen Cannon.
“They are really coming here totally blind and not knowing what’s next,” said Cannon.
All evacuees could take advantage of a resource resource fair set up by the United Way of Broward, Royal Caribbean International and county agencies. Buses took people to the Broward Convention Center, where FEMA and aid agencies were set up offering services like food and lodging, employment assistance and school enrollment.