Hurricane Maria swept through the Caribbean in late September 2017, causing catastrophic damage in the U.S. Virgin Islands and across Puerto Rico, where it was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in more than 80 years. In Maria’s wake, residents of these heavily impacted U.S. territories faced devastating losses to homes and crops, as well as long-term challenges due to damaged infrastructure. People across the islands were left without power, phone service and safe drinking water, and in Puerto Rico, more than 1.5 million people were still awaiting restoration of electricity over three months later.
Since Maria struck, Red Cross volunteers and employees have been visiting impacted communities, delivering bulk food supplies like rice, beans and fresh produce, drinking water, cleanup supplies, tarps and comfort kits with hygiene items. We are also providing critical health and mental health services to people with urgent needs. And while Puerto Rico’s shelters are operated by the government, we opened shelters for residents in the U.S. Virgin Islands who had been forced from their homes.
Due to the difficulties in restoring communications following the storm, many families also have had a hard time connecting with friends and relatives on the island or stateside. The Red Cross has provided satellite technology, portable generators, laptops and power strips on reunification trucks that traveled around the island, giving residents the opportunity to charge phones and communicate with loved ones.
This assistance makes a real difference in the daily lives of hurricane survivors. In a hard-hit community in central Puerto Rico, a Red Cross team delivered a generator to combat veteran Raul and his family, who had been without power and water for nearly 100 days. Raul, the family’s breadwinner, had only been sleeping one hour a night since Maria hit, because he did not have power for his CPAP machine. He was thrilled to receive the solar generator. The next day, Raul texted the team: “I finally slept for seven hours last night for the first time since Maria.”
Thanks to our generous donors, the Red Cross has raised $65.5 million, including the value of critical donated goods and services, to help people impacted by Hurricane Maria. As of December 20, 2017, the Red Cross had already spent or made commitments to spend approximately $30 million on emergency relief and recovery efforts for people affected by Hurricane Maria. We are working on plans for the remaining funds, which will be used to provide and support services for both individual and community long-term recovery.While we will continue to accept donations designated to Hurricane Maria, the Red Cross has ceased active fundraising for Hurricane Maria and removed the Hurricane Maria donation option from all fundraising channels. People who wish to support Maria relief efforts—or any specific cause—can always do so by using the downloadable donation form on redcross.org.