IIn the wake of Hurricane Fiona, which hit Puerto Rico on Sunday and Monday and left at least two people dead, most of the island’s residents are still without power, water or both.
The Category 3 storm dumped up to 32 inches of rain in some regions, causing catastrophic flooding and mudslides that threaten to continue. Authorities have only just begun to assess the damage. As of Tuesday afternoon, power was still out for 80 percent of the island’s nearly 1.5 million customers, and 55 percent of households had no running water, according to Puerto Rico Emergency Portal System.
President Joe Biden announced a State of emergency on Sunday, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to send aid and coordinate recovery efforts. National Guard Brig. Gen. Narciso Cruz told the AP the flooding from Fiona is unlike anything he’s seen, and many are comparing the situation to Hurricane Maria, which officially made landfall five years ago Tuesday. The US territory has not yet fully recovered and recovered from this damage, and its power grid has remained weak ever since.
By Tuesday, Fiona continued its path of destruction toward the Dominican Republic, 40 miles west of the coast of Puerto Rico, and then toward the Turks and Caicos. And heavy rain is still forecast for the rest of the week in the islands.
Puerto Rico’s electricity provider, LUMA Energy, has begun restoring service to customers, but said repairs will take days. In the meantime, local emergency response teams and field support services are providing assistance.
While individuals are discouraged from coming to the island yourself to volunteering in person, at least until the situation stabilizes, you can still help Puerto Ricans affected by the hurricane. This is how:
Where to donate money
Many local nonprofits and organizations jumped in to respond to Hurricane Fiona, providing food, shelter and services. Comedores Sociales has been running community kitchens in Puerto Rico since 2013 through mutual aid. The non-profit organization Techos Pa’ Mi Gente reconstruction has begun in areas devastated by storms after Hurricane Maria.
In addition, other regional and national organizations collect donations for specific assistance. The Spanish Federation collects for his fund to help the people of the island. Project HOPE accepts money to fund teams on the ground to provide medical assistance and Direct relief currently has a fund to provide Puerto Rico with mobile health facilities, emergency medicine, backup power and more.
Activists are encouraging funding to go to groups that are on the ground in Puerto Rico and can use donations immediately, rather than to large nonprofits or FEMA. After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico officials got disappointed with the slow recovery response from FEMA; Reuters reports that the agency spent only roughly $20 billion of the $65 billion allocated to Puerto Rico after Maria.
Read more: What do hurricane categories really mean?
Where to donate supplies
For people who are already in Puerto Rico and are able to help others, there are several local groups that collect supplies and distribute them to people in need.
For example, Fundación Mochileando 100×35a non-profit organization that fights poverty on the island is collection of provisions such as canned foods, water, diapers and pet food in San Juan and delivers them to central and southern Puerto Rico. Another mutual aid group, Brigade Solidaria del Oestethere is specifically requested water purification tablets, solar lamps, water filters, first aid kits, non-perishable foods and other essentials. They have set up collection center in the San German neighborhood.
The women’s team of Taller Salud in Puerto Rico is collecting physical donations of certain toiletries, shelf-stable foods, solar lanterns and more for local distribution. (Here are further details of their requests.) They also accept donations through their website.
What else can you do to help?
Those interested in traveling to Puerto Rico and volunteering can contact Puerto Rico Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD), a network of support groups that connects volunteers with local members. VOAD notes that while emergencies inspire people to want to go out there and help, volunteers should not show up without prior permission.
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