SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Crowds jammed the cruise ship dock of San Juan on Thursday desperately hoping to get on board the Royal Caribbean cruise ship the Adventure of the Seas, which was sent to help evacuate people struggling to find a way off Puerto Rico following the destruction of Hurricane Maria.
More than 2,000 people sweltered in the hot sun forming a line stretching down the shore and a pier.
"We've been in this line forever and it is hot," said Taylor McCloskey, who goes to school in Miami.
She said she came to visit family in the U.S. territory after Hurricane Irma shut down her school in Florida for three weeks, and then she got stranded in Puerto Rico when Maria hit last week.
"I need to get back, I need to get back to my life," she said. "There's no water, no electricity. I don't see anything coming anytime soon. It's bad."
It wasn't clear how many of those jamming the dock would get a spot on the ship. Puerto Rico officials said only about 800 of the 1,000 tourists caught on the island would be boarding, while the other passengers would be Puerto Ricans leaving the island or friends and family of Royal Caribbean employees.
"We've been standing in line since 8 a.m.," said Cara Rookwood of Philadelphia. "We have been trying to get on this supposed list that they have via email. I called my father and had him email the list but I don't think they're taking any more reservations at this point. But I'm getting a lot of conflicting information."
Rookwood and her husband, Davin Safer, were on the island of Vieques when the storm crashed in, and could not find a way back to the Puerto Rico mainland for several days, until they finally were given a ride on a private plane.
Safer said he has never experienced anything like the aftermath of the hurricane, which knocked out electricity across Puerto Rico, shut down businesses, blocked roads and ports, and left the island's 3.8 million people scrambling to find water, food and other necessities.
"Coming from a fairly normal stable background, I've never imagined that there could be so little security in America," he said.
His wife added, "It's been a strange, longer than normal vacation."