Things That Matter

Activists Supporting Puerto Rico Urge People to Donate to Grassroots Organizations

The island of Puerto Rico has, once again, been devastated by extreme weather as Hurricane Fiona made landfall on September 18 and continued relentlessly until the eye of the storm redirected away from the island the next day, destroying the tenuous, post-Maria infrastructure and leaving nearly 1.5 million people without power, a little less than half the population of the entire island, reports Today.

Hurricane Fiona has arrived five years after 2017’s Hurricane Maria, almost to the day, with gusts of winds exceeding 100 miles per hour while some areas endured nearly 30 inches of rain. Additionally, the hurricane has left nearly 200,000 people without drinkable water, and the local government estimates that one in five of the island’s cellphone towers is completely inoperable.

When Maria hit in 2017, it killed nearly 3,000 people and left many Puerto Ricans without power for almost 11 months, making it the second-longest blackout in recorded history. As first responders do what they can to recover as many people as possible, there’s no way of predicting how many recorded fatalities there may be or how long the power will be out for the nearly 1.5 million people affected.

However, the long-term impact may not be as dire as it was following Maria, according to NBC News. Luma Energy, the company that manages Puerto Rico’s power transmission and distribution, estimates it will only take a few days to get power up and running for a majority of people who are currently without.

As of September 19, Luma has already restored power to nearly 83,000 people.

Activists and community organizers are urging people to steer clear of FEMA and the Red Cross, two organizations that were criticized for their approach to distributing relief funds in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Instead, they say, those who want to help should connect with a local organization in Puerto Rico, where they can ensure their donation goes directly to those affected.

In a thread posted on Twitter, community organizer Anna María created a list of organizations to which people should send their support.

María is far from the only person who’s urging people to steer clear of name-brand organizations.

The White House released a statement following President Biden’s approval of an emergency declaration in Puerto Rico, for the purposes of “alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures,” adding, “to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in all 78 municipalities in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.”

As the people of Puerto Rico work to rebuild, Hurricane Fiona has started making its way towards Turks and Caicos, where it is expected to make landfall as a Category 2 hurricane with winds exceeding 100 miles per hour, as well as Bermuda and the Dominican Republic, reports ABC News.

Hurricane Fiona is not expected to have a major impact on the united States, but estimates do suggest that much of the Eastern seaboard will experience flooding alongside waves and rip currents along the East Coast.

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