New York Sends Emergency Workers to Help in Puerto Rico – Wall Street Journal (subscription)

Puerto Rican National Guardsmen load a helicopter with food and water to bring to hurricane survivors. A total of 147 New York City workers have traveled to the island on the city’s behalf to help with the relief efforts.
Puerto Rican National Guardsmen load a helicopter with food and water to bring to hurricane survivors. A total of 147 New York City workers have traveled to the island on the city’s behalf to help with the relief efforts.
Photo:

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
By

New York emergency workers have spent the past week in Puerto Rico rebuilding infrastructure, delivering resources to families and aiding volunteers after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island and left most of its 3.4 million residents without basic necessities.

New York Gov.

Andrew Cuomo

 on Friday said he dispatched more than 70 Port Authority workers and more than 50 state troopers to help with relief efforts. The state previously sent 245 state military personnel to the island to aid local law enforcement and help with debris removal and set up donation drop-off locations throughout the U.S. territory.

A total of 147 city workers have traveled to the island on the city’s behalf, including 30 members of the fire department and New York Police Department to help with search and rescue missions. Other workers are helping manage recovery operations and set up a distribution center in San Juan, according to city officials.

Speaking about the recovery efforts days after the hurricane hit the island, Mayor

Bill de Blasio

said thousands of New Yorkers have a personal connection to Puerto Rico.

“People are struggling for electricity, for food, for water, for all the basics,” Mayor de Blasio said to a crowd at a fire station in Brooklyn. “And the 700,000 New Yorkers who are proud Puerto Ricans, we will not forget what Puerto Rico is going through.”

Hurricane Maria, the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico in nearly a century, destroyed the island’s electricity infrastructure and left many without phone connections. Workers and volunteers have worked throughout the week to get relief supplies from cargo ships in San Juan’s port to families throughout the island.

Gov. Cuomo visited the island on Sept. 22 to see the devastation and meet with local leaders. The state has since sent more than 2,000 cans of food, 22,000 bottles of water and a Black Hawk helicopter to the island. New York City recently published a list of encouraged donation items: diapers, baby food, batteries, first-aid supplies and feminine hygiene products.

Henry Jackson,

deputy commissioner of the city’s Office of Emergency Management, said in a phone interview from the island that his team had set up a distribution center inside the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan to handle the incoming donations from the U.S.

Workers from New York coordinate with Federal Emergency Management Agency workers and travel throughout the island to clear debris off roads and distribute resources. Mr. Jackson said he has seen progress: Stores beginning to open and the Coliseum where he is working recently got access to electricity. But most are still struggling.

“Yesterday we saw a mayor who said people were drinking out of the river because they need water,” Mr. Jackson said. “These folks are resilient. We’ve got lines of volunteers ready to do anything they’re told to do.”

Mr. Jackson, who has responded to natural disasters and emergencies for more than two decades, said the collaboration of volunteers in Puerto Rico reminded him of another historic tragedy.

“Certainly 9/11 was impactful and as a resident of the city it impacts you a lot, but I know where these guys are,” Mr. Jackson said of Puerto Rico’s own emergency workers and volunteers. “It’s their city, their country, they’re devastated and they’ve got to work nonstop.”

Write to Zolan Kanno-Youngs at Zolan.Kanno-Youn[email protected]

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