From the air, the devastation Hurricane Maria brought to Puerto Rico appears to be catastrophic.

SAN FRANCISCO – So many U.S. satellite phones are being shipped to Puerto Rico right now that phone providers say they may run out by next week.

With 90% of the island’s cell phone network down and few landlines operating, satellite phones are one of the few ways for people to communicate and for relief workers to coordinate efforts. Unlike cell phones, the heavier and more powerful phones don’t rely on cell towers or landlines. Instead, they communicate directly with satellites in orbit around the earth. 

“Our industry is a small one and everybody’s just had their shelves wiped out because demand is so high given all these hurricanes,” said C.J. Webber, CEO of the SatPhoneStore in Miami.

He just got an order for 350 sat phones from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “We’re scraping the bottom trying to get them those phones, so even FEMA’s having trouble,” he said.

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