Catholic Charities to provide aid to Puerto Ricans devastated by Hurricane Fiona

Puerto Rico hurricane fiona A man walks down a flooded street in the Juana Matos neighborhood of Catano, Puerto Rico, on Sept.19, 2022, after the passage of Hurricane Fiona. Hurricane Fiona smashed into Puerto Rico, knocking out the U.S. island territory's power while dumping torrential rain and wreaking catastrophic damage before making landfall in the Dominican Republic on Sept. 19, 2022. | Photo by AFP via Getty Images

More than a day after Hurricane Fiona dumped 30 inches of rain on Puerto Rico before heading toward the islands of Turks and Caicos, a million people still do not have electricity, and 760,000 are without running water.

The storm hit Puerto Rico just before the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, the most devastating storm to hit the island since 1928. The island is still reeling from that storm, which the government says caused $90 billion in damage and killed almost 3,000 people.

In the hardest-hit areas, in southern and central Puerto Rico, more than 900 people had to be rescued as surging floodwaters submerged houses and damaged roads. Authorities report two deaths: one man drowned in a flooded river, and another was killed filling his generator with gasoline while it was running.

Kim Burgo, vice president of Catholic Charities USA’s disaster operations, told CNA that the local Catholic Charities agencies in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are planning to do assessments Tuesday to get an idea of what aid is needed. Their staff is currently organizing distributions of food, water, and other essential items.

Many families are still recovering from Hurricane Maria, she noted; some had gotten to a point where things were better, only to lose everything again.

While no two disasters are alike, Burgo said Catholic Charities learned important lessons from the experience of responding to Hurricane Maria. One of those lessons was about the importance of strategically pre-positioning supplies around the island — especially the kinds of items that go quickly from supermarket shelves — so that they can be quickly distributed to those in need when a disaster hits. 

Those who would like to donate to the hurricane relief effort can visit the Catholic Charities website. Every dollar will go directly to the recovery effort, Burgo said.

Father Enrique “Kike” Camacho, executive director of Cáritas Puerto Rico, coordinated relief efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017. Working closely with Catholic Charities, he helped relief get to those who needed it most through a support network operated out of 500 parishes.

Cáritas Puerto Rico’s Facebook page on Monday published an appeal for monetary donations with a promise that the organization would once again serve those affected by the disaster.

It read: “At Cáritas of Puerto Rico we are already activated to help so many Puerto Rican families and communities affected by the passage of Hurricane Fiona on our island. As on other occasions, we will be receiving monetary donations to use for top needs that arise to support our people.

“Just like in Hurricane Maria, in which we helped the 78 municipalities of PR with love and dedication, we are ready to repeat this gesture. We are resilient people and with faith we will stand again. Let us remain united in prayer, faith, and action, and may God bless you always,” the message read, advising people to donate through (via PayPal).

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