As Hurricane Fiona intensifies in Puerto Rico, here’s how to help

It was only last month that Annette Reyes was in Puerto Rico to visit family members who still live in the United States.

Weeks later, Reyes was the subject of videos and photos in the news of places she recently visited, now completely destroyed as Hurricane Fiona tears through the region. She worries not only for her own family who still live on the island, but also for the families of many of her Puerto Rican friends in the Greater Columbus area, as word of waiting from their loved ones.

“It’s heartbreaking because it’s such a beautiful place,” said Reyes, who lived in Puerto Rico until she was 7 and her parents moved to the mainland. “It’s a very uncertain time, and it’s scary waiting to find out if people are safe.”

USA TODAY: Hurricane Fiona intensifies after ‘catastrophic’ rains, mudslides in Puerto Rico; 80% without electricity

Hurricane Fiona grew stronger Tuesday, killing at least three as it passed Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The islands were hit by up to 30 inches of rain, which triggered overwhelming flooding and landslides, leaving much of the islands in ruins, USA TODAY reported.

While humanitarian efforts are likely to intensify, more than 80% of Puerto Rico was left without power and two-thirds of the island’s residents without water service more than 24 hours after the storm knocked out all the electrical system. Governor Pedro Pierluisi has requested a major disaster declaration which, if granted, would free up federal funds for public and individual relief.

Reyes is aware that many Greater Columbus residents may be relocated to help Puerto Ricans find safety, supplies and food in the aftermath of the catastrophic storm. It is his hope that in order to limit the time it takes for aid to arrive overseas, people will consider donating to relief organizations and grassroots self-help groups with a physical presence. in Puerto Rico, many of which were created after the land was leveled in 2017 by Hurricane Maria.

“For me, it’s about getting the money to the people and the organizations that are on the ground to serve them,” said Reyes, who lives in Pickerington.

Projected track of Hurricane Fiona at 5 a.m. Wednesday.

Organizations Reyes suggested people donate to include:

Many other grassroots organizations can be found through a list compiled by USA TODAY.

How can I help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Fiona? Here are some associations and mutual aid funds that you can support

A spokeswoman for the Ohio National Guard said it has not yet been asked to provide any assistance or relief to Puerto Rico. But the American Red Cross of Central and Southern Ohio is already mobilizing resources to help the territory.

Before Hurricane Fiona made landfall, the Red Cross made sure blood products to support hospitals were already available in Puerto Rico, which included blood donations from the Columbus area, Marita Salkowski said. , regional director of communications for the Red Cross.

Salkowski said more than 120 shelters have opened in Puerto Rico, many of which are located in schools powered by micro-grid solar power systems installed with $1.5 million in Red Cross support for the following the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

People clear debris from a road after a landslide caused by Hurricane Fiona in Cayey, Puerto Rico, on Sunday.

A dozen Red Cross volunteers from the central and southern Ohio region are deployed elsewhere to help with relief amid other disasters – two in Alaska to help those affected by Typhoon Merbok and the others in California to help those affected by the wildfires. But Salkowski said Red Cross volunteers from states with larger Spanish-speaking populations were moving in to offer relief in Puerto Rico.

Here are more ways residents of Greater Columbus can help the Red Cross with its relief efforts in Puerto Rico:

“People see the disaster on the news and they see the pictures and they want to volunteer,” Salkowski said. “We are always in need of volunteers, so if this disaster in Puerto Rico is a catalyst for you, then now is a good time to do that.”

At Ohio State University, the Puerto Rican Student Association plans to hold a candlelight ceremony from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sunday on the north side of the Oval campus for the victims of Hurricane Fiona, said Ohio State Junior Gabriella Rivera Fernández. , 20 years old, the head of the organization. A donation box and QR code will be available for guests who wish to donate to Taller Salud, a women-led nonprofit community organization that collects items including toiletries, water filters and non-perishable foods.

PRSA is also working with the Latinx Student Association of Ohio State to hold fundraising events Sept. 30 at the Ohio Union and Oct. 2 at Ohio Stadium.

As Reyes continues to learn of the devastation left by Hurricane Fiona, she can only hope people will be moved to donate.

In the meantime, Reyes does not know when his mother will be able to return home.

“They can’t take a break (in Puerto Rico),” Reyes said in tears. “I really hope that this time they have the means to recover as they should.”

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