MARIA: Puerto Rico without power — how to help island

By Digital Media Producers, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Thursday, September 21, 2017, 6:25 PM EDT

Puerto Rico was entirely without power and running water Thursday morning after Hurricane Maria slammed into the island as a Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds a day earlier.

Nineteen people across the Caribbean have died since Maria barrelled through, nearly all of them on the island of Dominica.

  • Maria leaves Puerto Rico without power, flooded streets
  • Maria likely to pass well east of Central Florida
  • Hotline for help checking on family, friends: 202-778-0710
  • You can also email MariaEmergencyUSC@state.gov -- provide as much info as possible
  • RELATED: Central Florida Puerto Rico donation dropoff sites

▼ JUMP TO ▼: Watch a replay of our Facebook Live with anchor Ybeth Bruzual and guests Puerto Rican Olympian Andrés Arroyo and Luis Figueroa, the former regional director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration


Officials were asking everyone in the U.S. territory to stay put while they assess the damage, which included crushed concrete balconies, landslides, downed trees and extensive flooding across the island. Drivers were forced to go against traffic in some places, where police cars blared loudspeakers to warn people they must respect a 6 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew imposed by the governor until at least Saturday morning.

Maria was the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years.

President Donald Trump on Thursday approved a disaster declaration for the island. The White House issued a statement saying: "The President continues to direct all necessary Federal resources to protect the people of the United States territories affected by Hurricane Maria and to support response and recovery efforts."

He and the first lady sent their thoughts and prayers to all those in harm’s way.

JetBlue had canceled almost 200 flights through Friday while airports restart operations, and there could be more, the airline said. Scheduled customers were urged to go to their website to check the status of their flights.

Meanwhile, Floridians with friends and family in Puerto Rico are worried after Maria. Many said they're still awaiting word from their loved ones.

Denise Tchor's son has been working in Puerto Rico for a few months. As the storm approached, she told him to take cover in a bathroom.

"He wound up in a little half-bath that was off the guest room, and they were all in there, and he tied the door so that nothing would come in," Tchor said.

Her son survived and is OK, she said.

U.S. House Rep. Darren Soto of Kissimmee says he'll be writing a letter to the Department of Homeland Security requesting additional support to ensure the island has sufficient funds to handle the crisis. 

“I also expect as we return to washington next week that we’re going to need to pass a supplemental FEMA package to help out with the remaining expenses from Hurricane Harvey in Texas," said Soto, whose district includes parts of Orange and Osceola counties. "Obviously, we are still rebuilding here in Central Florida with Irma and then also to help Puerto Rico with the devastation there due to Hurricane Maria.”

Soto said he will visit Puerto Rico in the next few weeks to assess the full damage and relief efforts on the island.

Looking for a loved one

If you need help finding a loved one in the Caribbean, email MariaEmergencyUSC@state.gov and provide as much information as possible about your loved one, including full name, gender and last known location.

You can also call the State Dept. at 1-888-407-4747 (from the U.S. and Canada).

People looking for family in Puerto Rico can try the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration Hurricane Hotline: 202-778-0710.

Also, the American Red Cross is asking people to register themselves as "Safe and Well" on the Red Cross website. People can also search for loved ones there. 

If you want to help

Some Central Florida Puerto Rican advocacy groups are asking for donations.

They say they need things like water, baby formula, canned food and clothes.

“We decided in Central Florida to unite as a one — leaving behind all colors, all ideologies, and just unite as a one to help our fellow Puerto Ricans back in the island," said Luis Figueroa, the former regional director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration.

There are a number of dropoff locations in Orlando and Kissimmee. Things you can donate: Drinking water, disposable plates, disposable cups, disposable cutlery, soap, deodorant, toothpaste, first aid kit, tent, sleeping bags, bed sheets, clothes, diapers, baby wipes, baby formula and medication such as ibuprofen.

Drop off location for items:

  • Puerto Rican Government
    15 South Orlando Avenue
    Kissimmee, FL 34741
  • Acacia Florida Centro Borinqueño
    1865 North Econlockhatchee Trail
    Orlando, FL 32817
  • Rego Tile Inc
    1770 E Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy
    Kissimmee, FL 34744

Financial donations:

  • Harbor Community Bank (Any location)
    Checks can be made to CASA

You may deduct these charitable contributions.

You can also make a cash donation to the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration's website, at UnitedforPuertoRico.com

Find more information on helping rebuild Puerto Rico on the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration website, or the U.S. State Dept.

Global Giving is hoping to raise $2 million for relief efforts in the Caribbean, including for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The group says the money will go exclusively to relief and recovery efforts in the Caribbean, through local nonprofit partners. You can donate on the Global Giving website.

Unicef is also collecting donations for the Caribbean relief efforts post Irma and Maria. Check out the Unicef website.

Americares is sending medicine and other aid to local health providers. Find out how to donate on the Americares website.

Basketball star Tim Duncan, a native of St. Croix, has started a fund to help the U.S. Virgin Islands post-Maria. Head to 21 US Virgin Island Hurricane Help for more information.

The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands has put together a relief effort site with the latest updates and links to find out what is happening and how you can help the Virgin Islands. Head to USVI Recovery.org.

Tampa's Without Walls accepting supplies for victims

Without Walls International Church is accepting supplies through Sunday afternoon to take to Puerto Rico for hurricane relief.

They are in need of the following items:
Water
MRE's
Battery lanterns
Manual can openers
First aid kits
Plenty of batteries and flashlights
Matches
Candles
Duct tape
Battery operated radios
Insect repellent
Soap and hygiene products
Cell phone portable chargers
Non perishable foods

They say they need things like water, baby formula, canned food and clothes.

Anyone who would like to contribute, can bring donations and supplies to
4414 N. Grady Ave., Tampa FL 33614
 
Items can be dropped off Thursday until 9 p.m. along with these times:
Friday, 9am-5pm
Saturday 7am-10am
Sunday 8am-2pm

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