Our fellow United States citizens in Puerto Rico need help NOW.
3.5 million Americans are suffering, struggling to survive on an island that is indeed a part of our country, yet without the federal aid and emergency response to which it is fully entitled following Hurricane Maria. It is absurd that people need to be continually reminded that Puerto Rico, like the US Virgin Islands, is part of the USA, a nation with robust, modern disaster response mechanisms, personnel and equipment at its disposal.
This. Is. A. Desperate. Emergency.
A 100% islandwide power outage is not “just” lights; it is lives, safety, infrastructure, economy, education, livelihoods, supplies, health, food, recovery, transportation, absolutely everything – and power is not expected to be back for four to six MONTHS. 60% of the island still has zero access to potable water, according to its Governor. Flooding is apocalyptic, towns are leveled, power grids annihilated, hospitals evacuated, communications ruined (though some landlines are now working so loved ones can be reached!). Failing dams – and flooded toxic superfund sites and coal power plants are already contaminating water – pose ongoing, even greater threats to safety and security, as does a dwindling food supply, lack of gas for vehicles and generators, no access to ATMs or banks to withdraw money, stagnant disease-breeding water, and increasing desperation which leads to crime.
Puerto Rico requires attention NOW – and no, now does mean in a few days or more, when the White House is expected to send its disaster aid request to Congress to initiate the process in early October. The island has yet to receive the initial emergency response, search and rescue, and humanitarian aid it has requested, per local authorities. I have long said that a national crisis would test the Trump government and expose fatal incompetencies, though prayed my words would never become reality. The President and Department of Defense need to act swiftly and decisively, though Trump appears to be blaming Puerto Rico for its grave situation. He just tweeted, "Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble. It's old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities - and doing well. #FEMA.” I would hardly say that Texas and Florida, where I have been on the ground, are doing anywhere near “great,” though those states are far more economically resilient than the indebted Puerto Rico with government bankruptcy and a crashing economy, not to mention unparalleled downpours.
In less than ONE day, places in Puerto Rico received up to 36 inches of torrential rain from Hurricane Maria. The images are heart-breaking, unreal, painful – of devastated people, unimaginable physical destruction, catastrophic flooding, decimated infrastructure. This crisis needs coverage, attention, resources and goods – including shelf stable food, diapers, baby food, batteries, first aid supplies, feminine hygiene, toiletries, though that is but a partial list. Numerous organizations have detailed basic supplies that are lacking, so try to meet those immediate needs with donations. People’s lives are on the line, if help does not arrive with speed, quantity and reach. There is no where else to turn, no Plan B, no alternative government to step in.
"The Puerto Rico and San Juan we knew yesterday is no longer there,” are words that have echoed in my mind since I watched a television interview with the Mayor of the capital just after the Hurricane. She spoke of the need to reconstruct, rebuild and reinvent for the long haul – but first, survival. We must be there for our fellow United States citizens who are in dire need in Puerto Rico. Donate by texting “UNIDOS” and an amount to 4144 or visit hispanicfederation.org/donate.