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‘My corazón breaks for them’ Red Cross volunteer leaves for Puerto Rico

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Jerry Silva, an American Red Cross volunteer from Richmond, flew out to Puerto Rico Wednesday to help with relief efforts after Hurricane Maria.

Silva just returned to Richmond from two weeks in Houston, where he helped after Hurricane Harvey.

"What we do is we meet up with the ERV -- emergency response vehicle -- that will have food prepped and ready to go. We'll be at a central location, they'll come to us, we take care of them and make them happy and make smiles," he explained.

Conditions in Puerto Rico remain dire. More than 3 million people remain without power and are short of food, fuel, and medicine. About half the island is without running water.

"I've seen the videos. I've seen the pictures, I speak Spanish. My corazón breaks for them," Silva said.

Red Cross volunteer Jerry Silva

Red Cross volunteer Jerry Silva

FEMA leaders said badly damaged airports and seaports have made it hard to get aid and personnel to the stricken island.

There are 16 Navy and Coast Guard ships near Puerto Rico. Ten more ships, including a Navy hospital ship, are on the way.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said FEMA has been slow to respond.

"When we call for help, we're not calling for 'give me a little bit more food' help we're calling for 'give a baby some water' help," she said.

Governor Ricardo Rosello said it has been a challenge to deal with what he called a disaster of unprecedented nature.

"It's been two Category 4 and 5 hurricanes in span of three weeks and we are an island and resources are harder to come by," he said.

The Red Cross has 400 workers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The nonprofit sent thousands of comfort kits and supplies and more are on the way.

"The best way I can put this is that we give abrazos, that's hugs. We tend to be loving, caring, and we are American people coming to help you. What I like is the smiles," Silva said.

Silva has been a Red Cross volunteer for 12 years. He's been deployed 10 times to assist after natural disasters. He said he expected to be in Puerto Rico for at least two weeks.