Escaping Disaster

“we’re so happy to be out of the chaos…”

Vanessa Arieno

San Juan, Puerto Rico – On Sept. 20 Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico in a town called Yabucoa. Hurricane Maria is a Category 4 with winds of over 150 mph and according to Time magazine it has created devastating death toll of 45. 19 deaths are an immediate impact of the storm and the rest are continuing.

According to CBS, Puerto Rico’s governor believes the last two deaths are from a bacterial infection known as Leptospirosis. Take a minute and visualize your home being hit with the strongest storm in 80 years. With possibly $95 billion in damages you could be losing everything you own aside from the safety of your family and friends.

According to WBUR the country consists of three and a half million U.S. citizens and Hurricane Maria is continually making it difficult for its people to get their basic needs. The U.S territory has been without power for three weeks now and will take months to kick back up. Since the storm originally struck Puerto Rico, 16% of the island’s power has been restored and 33% of cell phone service has been restored.

San Juan has been hit the hardest. Currently my abuela, my cousin Sasha and her 4-year-old daughter are living in my home back in Rochester. It took over a week to fly them to the United States and get them out of the awful conditions Hurricane Maria has brought to Puerto Rico. When trying to understand just how brutal the conditions were on the island Sasha described her step-dad standing for “hours on the entrance door holding it because it looked like it was going to break.”

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Not only were the winds ruthless but the flooding began to get worse and worse. The conditions in Puerto Rico were and still are ghastly and clearly life threatening. “The street was flooded up to the entrance door…all the trees fell down…garage doors damaged,” says Sasha. “My room was flooding through the closet because the plumbing of the compressor of the air conditioning is on the roof of the house.” In order to get gas, residents had to wait in line for up to 6-8 hours. Often when someone towards the back of the line was up there was no more gas – after waiting eight hours. Recently a basketball court in San Juan collapsed injuring a 16-year-old boy but he is alive and stable. “This is not a good news story,” says Carmen Yúlin Cruz, San Juan’s mayor, “this is a ‘people are dying’ story.”

The living conditions in Puerto Rico were and still are undeniably unpleasant. Living on campus or off campus we have access to a faucet, we don’t think twice about not being able to shower and we can easily wash and clean our dishes. In other words, living in a dorm or a college house/apartment would be a dream for anyone living in Puerto Rico. My family members living in San Juan during the time of the hurricane had absolutely no access to any water until a week after Hurricane Maria. All they were able to use was a small plastic tank of water to bathe in, wash clothes and clean dishes. With a family of over five people having to use as minimal water as possible to last seven days is quite a difficult challenge. Currently, my family who is still in San Juan has a plastic large container of water and a bucket of soap to wash their clothes.

“So happy to be out of the chaos for a little bit,” says Sasha.

To help those in Puerto Rico you can donate to a variety of websites or go to www.

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