INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Hurricane Fiona has wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico nearly five years to the day after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. island.
There’s a mass rush to try to get support to the communities impacted the hardest, and an Indiana-based nonprofit is stepping up its efforts, using relationships built over the last five years to quickly get food and supplies to families.
Puerto Rico Rise Up say in addition to the devastation from Fiona, the island is still coping with the damage Maria left behind when it hit Sept. 20, 2017.
The devastation on the ground in Puerto Rico is an all-too-familiar site for Madeline Muniz Aquino and James Perez. They are two of Puerto Rico Rise Up volunteers who live on the island.
Dr. Sara Diaz, founder of Puerto Rico Rise Up, said, “I went there 2½ weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall and was able to assist some of my colleagues, my medical colleagues.”
Diaz, a Puerto Rico native, now lives in Indiana. She founded the organization in 2017 and is thankful for the volunteers to provide much needed support to families coping with massive loss. Most don’t have power, water or little to no internet access.
“We were in the long-term recovery phase from Maria, and a lot of folks are still getting by,” Diaz said.
Through Diaz interpretation, Munoz Aquino and Perez say they’ve suffered through the worse of the hurricane alongside the people they are helping. Perez had to rescue his pregnant daughter after her roof blew off.
“The devastation has been quite different. The flooding, people have lost their roof, but, at the same time, even with the disaster, it feels somewhat hopeful,” Perez said through Diaz’s interpretation.
Puerto Rico Rise Up representatives says money helps get resources to people on the ground faster and helps better fund the local economy.
“It’s been very tough. It’s been hard because you relive the experience,” said Munoz Aquino through Diaz’s interpretation.
Many people are still without power due to damage from Hurricane Maria. Combine that with a series of earthquakes, Diaz says, and the extra structure instability and excessive water is bringing down homes and buildings. “Very devastating. Different than Maria in some degrees, but actually worse than Maria in other regards,” Diaz said.
Puerto Rico Rise Up representatives say because of the long-term devastation, it’s had broad mental health impacts for people on the island.