Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands Wednesday leaving behind severe flooding and widespread destruction in both territories that were still recovering from Hurricane Irma’s landfall more than a week ago. Maria destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, businesses, schools and hospitals on both territories. Power and communications systems are out, and it could be months until power is restored. Widespread flooding is occurring as rivers reach record high levels.
The eye of the Hurricane made a direct hit as a category five storm on the island nation of Dominica, causing widespread damage to infrastructure and telecommunications systems. Though there is limited information coming from the island, government reports are stating that at least seven people died due to the storm. The nearby islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe also suffered damage. The storm passed over Puerto Rico yesterday as a Category 4/3, causing further destruction and cutting off power across the entire island.
On the forecast track, the center of Maria will travel past the northern coast of the Dominican Republic early tomorrow morning. Little change in strength is forecast during the next 48 hours, and Maria is expected to remain a dangerous major Hurricane through Friday. Forecast tracks are still uncertain on potential impacts to the mainland U.S., even though the latest forecast
The Red Cross is mobilizing volunteers and relief supplies to help those in need across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Getting relief materials to the islands is difficult, but the Red Cross is working with federal, corporate and community partners to get supplies to the region by both sea and air.
On the Virgin Islands, Red Cross workers will continue to operate and support emergency shelters.
On Puerto Rico, shelters are managed by the government, but the Red Cross is preparing to support sheltering efforts if needed.
Officials estimate that emergency shelters and food support will be needed by a large portion of the population in both territories for weeks. The Red Cross will be deploying relief supplies such as water, rice, beans, ready-to-eat meals, clean-up kits, home repair kits, tarps, trash bags, insect repellant, hand sanitizer, work gloves and more.
Massive disasters like Hurricane Maria create more needs than any one organization can meet on their own. 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 – to coordinate emergency relief efforts and get help to people as quickly as possible.
The Red Cross is working with dozens of disaster partners to support feeding, child care, disaster assessment and other disaster services. Some of the partners we are coordinating with include Adventist Development and Relief Agency, All Hands Volunteers, the Salvation Army, Save the Children, Southern Baptists Disaster Relief, Team Rubicon, UNIDOS US and VOAD Puerto Rico.
And for the southeastern and eastern coast of the mainland U.S., Red Cross disaster teams are preparing for the possibility of Maria making landfall, closely monitoring the storm track, assessing the availability of volunteers/shelters/supplies and preparing a plan of action.
Red Cross International Response
Dominica Red Cross Response
The Dominica Red Cross had been actively responding to the aftermath from Hurricane Irma by mobilizing emergency supplies for its of St. Martin. Now that Hurricane Maria has severely impacted Dominica, it will respond to the immediate needs of those affected with activities such as the distribution of relief supplies and the provision of first aid.
The American Red Cross is deploying three disaster response specialists to Dominica as part of an international response to support the Dominica Red Cross. They will set up IT-telecoms systems for the response, provide information management support for assessments and coordination, and help develop a plan for potential cash grant distributions when possible.
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Response
The IFRC is closely monitoring the storm and has activated its Emergency Operations Center in Panama. It is in the process of mobilizing response teams to deploy to the island to help assess the damage and coordinate the relief operations.
Family Reunification After Disasters
The American Red Cross Safe and Well website is a free public reunification tool that allows individuals and organizations to register and post messages to indicate that they are safe, or to search for loved ones.
·The site is always available and open to the public and available in Spanish.
·Registrations and searches can be done directly on the website.
·Registrations can also be completed by texting SAFE to 78876. Messages exist in both Spanish and English.
·To speak with someone at the American Red Cross concerning a missing friend or relative who has a serious, pre-existing health or mental health condition, please call 1-800 RED CROSS (1-800- 733-2767).
Recent disasters, like Hurricane Maria and the earthquake in Mexico, have left many across the world looking for their loved ones, and the Red Cross is here to help.
·If you are looking for a U.S. citizen affected by recent international disasters, please contact the U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888- 407-4747 or go online at http://www.usa.gov/directory/federal/overseas-citizens- services.shtml
·If you live in the United States and are looking for non-U.S. citizen family members affected by Hurricane Maria in the French and Dutch territories, and British Virgin Islands, please visit www.familylinks.icrc.org to find more information.
·If you are seeking information about non-U.S. citizen family members in Mexico who have been missing since the recent earthquake, please visit www.redcross.org/FamilyLinks, or call the American Red Cross Restoring Family Links Helpline at 844-782- 9441.
·During and after large, devastating disasters such as Hurricane Maria, connectivity can be a challenge. If you’ve put a request in with American Red Cross or the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, please continue to virtually reach out to your friends and family.
·Keep trying to reach out by calling during off-peak hours, and continue to send text messages and emails. Continually check social media for updates.
·Contact other family members or neighbors who live nearby who may be able to provide you with information.