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People struggling to contact relatives in Puerto Rico

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SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - Millions of people are still without power in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island last week. That's making it hard for people in the U.S. to communicate with their relatives. Many of them are just trying to find out if their family members survived the category four storm.

"Iit's very tragic for us to try to imagine how it is down there," said Puerto Rico native Emanuellie Arce, who now lives in Sarasota.

The hurricane teared roofs off homes, snapped trees, brought down cell towers and power lines.

"I know many people who are living in the states are worried about not hearing from their families and the reason for that is communication towers are down," said Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico.

96% of cell towers were still down as of Sunday. It took four days for Arce to get in touch with his relatives.

"There's no internet, there's no power, there's no water," said Arce of his homeland. "A lot of their basic needs are not being met right now."

Arce keeps his mind busy by boxing in his free time, but in between boxing sessions, he was finally able to get in touch with his grandmother and uncle through a satellite phone connection on Sunday.

"We were lucky to get a line through and speak to them, but it was very brief," said Arce. "It was like a five minute talk. It was like 'okay, are you okay physically?' then it just went out."

AT&T is helping people get in touch with their relatives in Puerto Rico.

To apply, enter the cell phone number of the customer you're trying to contact on the AT&T website, then enter your number. When that person is able to connect to a wireless network, AT&t will let them know someone is trying to contact them from your phone number, and will notify you when more service is up and running.

"Not hearing from them was definitely the scariest thing," said Arce of the four days before getting in touch with his relatives.

Arce explained Hurricane Maria may be one of the hardest battles his home territory has faced, but Puerto Rico, and its residents, know how to put up a good fight.

"You can knock us down 10 times but we will get up 11 times," explained Arce. "And this is not going to be any exception."