By Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Fewer than one in 10 cell sites in Puerto Rico survived Hurricane Maria. Combined with extensive power outages and other infrastructure damage, it’s been all but impossible for people on the island to make — or take — calls.

Jose Flores is one of dozens of drivers parked on the shoulder of a highway in San Juan, where, at last, his phone can get enough bars to call his daughter.

untitled95 Wireless Companies Working To Restore Service In Puerto Rico In Wake Of Hurricane Maria

A man manages to speak by cellphone to his family in the United States from Vega Alta, 45 km north of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
(credit: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)

“This is the only place where we could get signal,” he said. “She’ll let my family know that we’re fine.”

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AT&T spokeswoman Brandy Bell-Truskey says they’ve sent food, water, and a couple dozen generators to the island — along with their CEO, John Donovan.

“We’re closely monitoring our network. We’re working to maintain and restore,” Bell-Truskey said. “We have staging areas set up, we have teams in place, and equipment already there and more arriving.”

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AT&T has a website where anyone can register the cell number of a customer in Puerto Rico. When that phone finally connects…

“The customer will be notified that their family or friends in the US have been trying to contact them,” Bell-Truskey explained.

And registrants get notified by email when service is restored.

The wireless companies — so often at each other’s throats in fierce competition — are collaborating on getting the cell sites back online.

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