By CATHERINE TADIN
Hurricane Maria made landfall on Sept. 20 around 6:15 am AST on the southeastern part of Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm, with maximum sustained winds at 155 mph. In the devastation that followed, the island’s residents lost basic necessities such as electricity and running water, crippling areas for possibly months to come. Ricardo Roselló, the governor of Puerto Rico, announced on Oct. 10 that the official death toll is 45.
Some members of the Fordham community shared their reaction to the devastation caused by the storm and how the U.S. government responded to the situation.
“The current government should be doing 100 percent more than they currently are,” said Tanya Krishnakumar, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’19.
The general consensus among members of the Fordham community is that the federal government needs to do more because Puerto Rico is a part of the United States. Among them are students who are angry at President Trump for not being more concerned with the status of the island. One student said it should not matter that Puerto Rico is more difficult to reach than Texas or Florida.
Other members of the Fordham community feel Puerto Rico is not a priority of the government because it is a territory, while Texas and Florida are states.
Only 45 percent of customers have access to drinking water, according to the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported 59 out of 69 hospitals are partially or fully operational. On Oct. 3, one of the Navy’s hospital ships, the USNS Comfort, arrived at San Juan ready to treat those needing medical attention.
The hurricane caused almost $95 billion in damages, and the power grid was completely knocked out. It is estimated that at least six months will pass before power is fully restored to the island. Those who do have power are using generators, but a shortage of fuel on the island is making it difficult for the hospitals to stay open.
Thousands of shipping containers full of aid are in Puerto Rico, but because many of the roads are still not clear and only 20 percent of truck drivers reported back after the hurricane passed, the majority of the containers are sitting at the Port of San Juan. Communication is still down in some parts of the island, making it difficult to reach the rest of the drivers.
Kaylie Szarek, FCLC ’21, said, “If it were Texas not getting enough aid or support from FEMA or the government, people would be outraged.”
“The biggest issue is distribution on the island,” Jonathan Trinidad, a member of FCLC ’19 who is from Puerto Rico, said. Trinidad has not heard of anything bad happening to his family, but some relatives who live in a different area lost their homes. He hopes to be able to go down to the island during Thanksgiving break.
Local authorities in Puerto Rico claim that the roads are not the issue, according to an article by the National Public Radio (NPR). Roberto Ramírez Kurtz, the Mayor of Cabo Rojo, which is located on the other side of the island from San Juan, made the trip to the capital of Puerto Rico to ask for aid. He believes if he can manage to reach San Juan, then goods can be sent west. A different mayor, Juan Carlos Garcia of Coamo, also said the roads are clear.
In response to all the natural disasters that have recently struck this part of the world, Fordham University launched a campaign to raise money to help provide aid for the affected communities.
Fordham’s Emergency Relief Fund raised $25,181 in response to all the natural disasters that have struck the Gulf region since August 2017. The money will be used to aid all those affected by Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria and the two major earthquakes in Mexico through Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services.
Over 180 people have made donations to the fund, which closed at 12:01 am on Friday Oct. 5, and an anonymous student in the Graduate School of Social Service has matched every dollar collected from Sept. 26 forward, up to $5,000.