San Juan, Puerto Rico, Nov 14, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Seven weeks after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, the majority of the island is still without power, and many residents are without clean water as well.
While the rebuilding process is slow, Catholic aid groups are working to provide supplies to those who desperately need them.
On Nov. 10, Catholic Charities USA presented $2 million in additional aid to Caritas de Puerto Rico, the Catholic Charities agency on the island.
This money follows the $1.5 million in funds given by Catholic Charities USA shortly after the hurricane struck the island.
Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm. Up to 155 mile per hour winds and heavy rains destroyed buildings, caused massive flooding, and wiped out electricity to the entire island of 3.5 million people.
The storm has killed at least 51 people, and Puerto Rican authorities have estimated the cost of damages at up to $95 billion.
Many residents are still in need of food and clean drinking water. The lack of communication has also been a serious issue, said one Catholic Charities worker.
“We have been trying to get ahold of the folks here in Utuado for almost a week and have been unable to do so…just packing up the jeep and bringing the supplies here is the only way we are able to communicate,” Kim Burgo told NBC.
More than half the population of Puerto Rico is Catholic, and about a third are Protestant. The island has a strong Christian presence that relies on the support of Christian churches.
While some churches were destroyed by the hurricane, many of those that survived have become safe havens for the Puerto Rican people. Caritas de Puerto Rico has set up locations in Catholic churches across the country to hand out food, water, and hygiene supplies.
Other Christian groups are also working to serve those in need. The Wall Street Journal reported on a Christian church housing more than 500 homeless people and a Southern Baptist group planning to send 200-300 volunteers to open kitchens serving food.
Looking forward, Caritas de Puerto Rico has identified four main objectives as initial steps to long-term restoration: improve distribution of supplies, develop disaster case management teams, provide mental health counselors, and establish a new health clinic on the island.