The American Red Cross is in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, working alongside government officials and disaster partners to help the hundreds of thousands of people on both island territories who are suffering since Hurricane Maria devastated the area.
The Red Cross is working with officials and partners to support communities needing help. The Red Cross is also working with partners in Florida and Georgia to support medical evacuees and their caretakers as they arrive. In addition, in some areas the Red Cross is supporting self-evacuees as they arrive. This support includes relief items, health services and emotional support.
In Puerto Rico, schools are expected to reopen this week. Some power and cell service has been restored, but the majority of residents are still without power and drinking water. Officials say it could be toward the end of the year before most of the power is restored. More than 80 percent of people now have access to cell service. Maria destroyed bridges and roads, making it difficult to get help to some areas. Emergency shelters and food support will be needed by a large portion of the population for weeks to come.
Hundreds of Red Cross workers are helping to reconnect families and distribute critical relief supplies, including food and water. The Red Cross has sent in satellites, which are driven around on Reunification Trucks also carrying portable generators, laptops and power strips, enabling people to charge their cell phones to communicate with loved ones. Thousands of people have been in contact with their loved ones due to this effort. The satellites and technology also help aid workers as they coordinate relief efforts. Red Cross teams continue to distribute relief items to people in remote barrios. In coordination with government and nonprofit partners, teams of Red Cross workers are helping to distribute water, meals, snacks, fresh fruit and vegetables, tarps, insect repellent and comfort kits. Red Cross health services and mental health workers are also on the ground, providing support and comfort to those affected.
U.S. Virgin Islands
On the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Red Cross is supporting shelters, serving meals and snacks, and distributing relief supplies. Emergency shelters remain open, and the Red Cross is meeting one-on-one with shelter residents on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix to help them plan their next steps and return home if possible. The Red Cross is also assisting with plans for long-term health care for some shelter residents. Red Cross is also working with a variety of community partners and local agencies to help identify and facilitate recovery resources for shelter residents. On St. Thomas, in addition to supporting sheltering efforts, Red Crossers are working alongside partners to distribute food, water and emergency supplies including tarps. Volunteers are providing health services and emotional support, in addition to helping to assess damage to homes. On St. John, in addition to helping support the Bethany Church shelter, the Red Cross is also helping to distribute emergency supplies such as water and cleaning items. On St. Croix, the Red Cross is supporting the shelters run by the Department of Human Services. In addition, the Red Cross is providing health and mental health services and supporting the distribution of relief supplies across the island.
The Red Cross is working very closely with the entire response community – government agencies, other non-profit groups, faith-based organizations, area businesses and others. For example, teams of ham radio operators from the American Radio Relay League and The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network have deployed to help with communications and reunification.
International Red Cross volunteers from Mexico, Spain, Finland, Costa Rica, Honduras and Colombia have helped to distribute food and water and support damage assessment efforts. Dozens of additional disaster partners are helping to support feeding, child care, disaster assessment and other disaster services. Some of these partners include the Peace Corps, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, All Hands Volunteers, the Salvation Army, Save the Children, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Team Rubicon, UnidosUS and VOAD Puerto Rico.
How to Help
Help people affected by Hurricane Maria by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word MARIA to 90999 to make a $10 donation.