DORAL, Fla. – South Florida relief groups in Doral and Miami residents have taken an around-the-clock effort to send emergency aid supplies to hard-hit Puerto Rico where rain from Hurricane Fiona continued to cause devastating flooding from Monday’s storm.
The storm has passed but recovery is only beginning as blackouts and flooding continue to impact families on the island.
Chief Operating Officer of Global Empowerment Mission Emily Fullmer spoke with Local 10 News about their latest relief efforts.
“We’re packing boxes with family necessity kits, so we already had those pre-positioned,“ said Fullmer. “But as soon as they go out the door, we want to make sure those are backfilled in case there’s another disaster nearby.”
Workers from the non-profit Global Empowerment Mission have been busy loading pallets — and packing supplies —including nearly 1,700 family necessity kits, which will soon be sent to the island.
“A family necessity kit sustains a family of four to five for about one to two weeks. About half that box is full of food, mostly Goya products, and then the other half is full of hygiene and other small necessities that you would need right off the bat after you lose your home,” said Fullmer.
The blow from Fiona was made more devastating because Puerto Rico has yet to recover from Hurricane Maria, which killed nearly 3,000 people and destroyed the power grid in 2017. Five years later, more than 3,000 homes on the island are still covered by blue tarps.
The storm stripped pavement from roads, tore off roofs and sent torrents pouring into homes. It also took out a bridge and flooded two airports.
Authorities reported one death from the hurricane — a man swept away by a flooded river in the inland town of Comerio.
Puerto Rican officials said it was too early to know the full scope of damage. The storm was still expected to dump up to 15 inches of rain in some places as it spun away from the U.S. territory that is home to 3.2 million people.
Miriam Camacho, who lives in the town of Vega Alta, spoke to Local 10 News about the destruction Monday.
“Throughout the island, there has been mud slides, the rivers overflowing, people needing to relocate,” Camacho said. “The island is going through a very tough time.”
Puerto Rico is expected to see more than 30 inches of rain by the time the storm clears.
Senior U.S. Program Director for International Medical Corps Erica Tavaras says her team started working in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria, five years ago, and have never left.
Tavaras told Local 10 in an interview, “these are families that have been recovering for the last five years, some people, you know, in the southern part of the island, which is at risk for catastrophic flooding for the next week, are still displaced from their homes from the earthquakes in 2020.”
International Medical Corps provides emergency and long-term medical and mental health services, along with humanitarian assistance.
“Our team in Puerto Rico is now in the process of procuring and delivering hygiene kits, energy sources and other urgently needed medical supplies, water and food,” said Tavaras.
“Health facilities are also looking for supplies, alternative energy sources, water water filters, those sorts of things so that they can stay open and can continue to provide services,” she said.
If people want to help survivors of Hurricane Fiona they can donate to internationalmedicalcorps.org.