Three weeks after Hurricane Maria, most of Puerto Rico still without power

Puerto Rico (MNN) — It’s been exactly three weeks since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. But today, almost 90 percent of the island is still without power. Puerto Rico took a direct hit from the Category 5 hurricane and their major power lines over the central mountain region were lost.

Citizen-Soldiers of the Puerto Rico National Guard patrol one of the main highway of the metropolitan area, affected by the flood after the Hurricane Maria. (Photo by Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos/PRNG-PAO via Flickr)

In addition, nearly half of the nation’s grocery stores are out of drinkable water. All of Puerto Rico is under a boil advisory, meaning you have to boil any water before ingesting it. But with the power down, a boil advisory does no good when you have no power to boil your water.

Omar Haedo, President and CEO of Elan Insurance Group, explains, “All of that infrastructure was torn to pieces. I mean, the big power lines looked like dental floss…. That takes down the power grid, that takes down the water supply, that takes down communications. So the government in San Juan couldn’t even speak to the policemen and rescue…. You have a situation where you have 3.5-3.6 million American citizens with no power, no water, no communications, no cell phone, no internet, and everything is dark.”

Christian Aid Mission has a solid relationship with several local churches in Puerto Rico. When the hurricane ripped through the island, Christian Aid’s Latin America Director Luis Janeiro immediately reached out to their contacts.

Janeiro says, “We have a long story with Puerto Rico and we can witness the generosity of a lot of the Puerto Rican people. There are a lot of Christian churches there and our experience in the past is they’ve been very generous to missions — in our case, indigenous missions. So when we found out the situation, we really wanted to be able to help. I was calling all the pastors I know on the island and couldn’t get through to any of them.”

Meanwhile, a representative in Florida got in touch with Haedo and found out he had an 80-foot boat that could deliver aid to Puerto Rico from Miami. The representative connected Haedo with Christian Aid Mission and a partnership was formed to spur the hurricane relief efforts.

The coast along San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Together, both by boat and by plane, Haedo and Christian Aid Mission have made it possible for generators, water filtration systems, solar-powered chargers, and over $50,000 worth of critical medicine to be delivered to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.

Haedo says, “I called my local church in Puerto Rico and they have all banded together and the first thing locally was can we develop a census of highest-need people in the family of Christ? So the elderly, the single mom, the sick. They have all banded together developing a list of highest-need people.”

The generators were the most immediately needed, and they’re being distributed in sort of a domino effect system. One person or family gets a generator to use on loan until they get power back. Then that generator is passed to the next person who still doesn’t have power, and the next, and so on.

“When the emergency abates,” explains Haedo, “we will store them so we have a ready inventory of materials for the next hit.”

The water filtration systems are another strategic resource, he says. “Sending water bottles is exceedingly expensive, very heavy, and it doesn’t really take you very far because you create garbage and there’s no garbage being picked up with all the plastic bottles. So we think the osmosis water filtration systems are good.”

They’re working with local churches as relief centers for aid distribution. Haedo explains, “That’s the only way we want to do it because we can be more effective by getting to the highest need people in the community. They don’t have to be part of the local church, but local churches are a wonderful distribution network because they’re part of the community.”

Relief in Puerto Rico is going to be an ongoing effort spanning several months — maybe even years. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said it may take until the end of this month for even 25 percent of the power grid to be back online. And the American citizens there need our help.

You can give to this outreach ministry through Christian Aid Mission at their website here. You can also call them at 1-800-577-5650 to donate.

In addition, Haedo says, “I really don’t want people to forget St Thomas with about 50,000 people, St Croix with about 40,000 people, and St John with about 10,000 people also got hammered…. Our plan is to load [the boat] up and go to the outer islands and deliver again through local churches and getting to the highest need.”

Please pray for safety as these hurricane relief efforts continue. And pray that the people affected by this disaster would find comfort in our Heavenly Father.