In late September, Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico as a powerful Category 4 storm with 155-mph winds. It left 100% of the island without power causing an estimated $85 billion in damages across an island already in an 11-year recession.
"I knew it was bad but seeing the families arriving firsthand at the airport was difficult, many come here with no real connections in Florida, so they are homeless and scared with what's to come, they came here out of desperation because they were promised help but there are so many families that the help, especially with housing is very slim" says FWAF AmeriCorps volunteer who assisted with families arriving at Orlando International airport disaster relief welcome center.
FWAF staff members, allies, and community members have been similarly affected, with friends, family, and even homes impacted by the storm on their island homeland.
In Puerto Rico, Nearly 5,000 people remain homeless in shelters after the storm, with many using rainwater to shower if they are fortunate enough to have access to uncontaminated water sources. The EPA received reports of people attempting to access water out of desperate need at toxic Superfund sites located in Caguas, San German and Dorado. The death toll is at odds as the confirmed number rose to 45 people. Conflicting numbers arise as reports come out of at least 450 reported deaths, most of causes still unknown, and at least 69 people are reported still missing. Members of Congress request immediate official audits of hurricane related deaths.
It’s been four weeks since the initial chaos, and the Isla De Encanto is slowly attempting to breathe from the destruction of this impactful natural force. Currently about 17% of the electrical grid is back on, providing some relief to families who have not yet been able to communicate with their family members.
Puerto Rico's agriculture has been severely damaged, affecting not only the livelihood of the farmworkers and farmers but also the food sources available to export and the Caribbean island itself," Hurricane Maria wiped out about 80 percent of the crop value in Puerto Rico — making it one of the costliest storms to hit the island’s agriculture industry, said Carlos Flores Ortega, Puerto Rico’s secretary of the Department of Agriculture."
With not much hope left to cling onto in the island, thousands of Puerto Rican Families have been pouring into the mainland joining the 1 million Puerto Rican families already in Florida, 80% of flights leaving P.R are arriving in Florida.
The FWAF has joined relief efforts for Puerto Rico