Puerto Ricans are still in need of aid nearly one month after Hurricane Maria’s devastation.
The official death toll on the U.S. island territory has increased to 48, but more than 100 people are still missing, officials said.
According to CNN, as of Wednesday, about 1 million are still without running water and 3 million without power.
Only 45 of 70 hospitals are currently operating with electricity and according to FEMA officials, there is a severe food shortage.
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President Donald Trump met local and federal officials in Puerto Rico on Oct. 3 and praised his administration’s response to the storm.
"I hate to tell you Puerto Rico, but you've thrown our budget a little out of whack," Trump said. "But that's fine.
His marks came amid harsh criticism that the administration’s response to the disaster was slow or insufficient.
Trump is set to meet with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello Thursday to discuss rebuilding efforts, the White House said.
The once Category 5 storm hit the U.S. Virgin Islands in mid-September and eventually downgraded to a Category 4, but not before it plowed through Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, flooded the streets, collapsed homes and left the entire territory without power.
According to the New York Times, the 155-mph winds also left 80 percent of the United States commonwealth’s crop value completely destroyed.
Families desperately trying to connect with their loved ones have also had trouble reaching them as few of the island’s 1,600 cellphone towers were operational.
“What's out there is total devastation. Total annihilation. People literally gasping for air. I personally have taken people out and put them in ambulances because their generator has run out,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told ABC News.
According to the National Hurricane Center, the dangerous hurricane downgraded to a tropical storm and slowly moved away from the U.S. east coast after causing some storm surge flooding.
How you can help the victims of Hurricane Maria
Make monetary donations to charities or crowdfunding campaigns
According to the United States Agency for International Development, giving money to reputable relief agencies and nonprofits is the most effective way to help and to avoid using resources to transport or deliver donated goods.
Listed below are several charity organizations or crowdfunding campaigns to choose from. You can also use Charity Navigator to learn more about the organizations before donating.
Note that sending money via text message may seem convenient, but according to the Associated Press, that’s not the case. Charities often have to wait on phone companies to release the money.
Here are some organizations to consider giving money to:
- United for Puerto Rico (direct aid and support for Puerto Rico spearheaded by the First Lady of Puerto Rico)
- Americares (emergency and medical supplies)
- UNICEF (emergency relief and help for children affected)
- Save the Children (emergency relief and help for children affected)
- ConPRmetidos (Puerto Rico-based nonprofit to benefit “immediate needs of food, shelter, water” and more)
- GlobalGiving Caribbean Hurricane Maria & Irma Relief Fund (from US-based nonprofit, Global Giving)
- SPCA International (help for animal rescue and care)
- Habitat for Humanity (housing and shelter needs)
- All Hands (specific for U.S. Virgin Islands)
- Salvatian Army (supplies and shelter needs)
Other crowdfunding campaigns:
- GoFundMe’s Hurricane Maria relief homepage (a landing page with several crowdfunding efforts)
- 21 US Virgin Island Relief Fund (NBA star Tim Duncan hoping to raise $5 million for his home country)
- Dominica Hurricane Maria Relief Fund (bringing relief to Dominica)
- Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Hurricane Relief Fund (to help families and countries rebuild after hurricanes)
Make monetary donations via Google search
If you do a Google search for “Hurricane Maria,” you’ll be able to donate money directly in the search results. Scroll down to donate $5, $25 or $50 to the Center for Diseaster Philanthropy.
Check if your employer will match your donation
Doublethedonation.com has a nifty tool that lets you enter your company name to find out whether or not your employer offers a matching gift program for donations.
The American Red Cross urges generous volunteer blood donors to give blood year-round, not only at the time of disaster. Currently, a need for platelet and type O blood donations are especially needed, according to the organization website.
Visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to begin the donation process.
Donate useful goods
Monetary donations are preferred, but this nationwide Google spreadsheet also has donation drop-off locations for essential items.
According to the spreadsheet, there’s not a great need for clothing and transporting water and food may waste resources.
Instead, think about long-term supplies someone may need without electricity or food, such as asthma pumps, bug repellant, eye drops, water purification products.
Other high-ticket items include solar powered USB chargers, lanterns, radios, batteries, baby items and duct tape.
Some locations on the Google spreadsheet only collected items through the end of September, but others are collecting them on an ongoing basis.
The American Red Cross is looking is dispatching volunteers to aid areas affected by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.
Local residents should use this form.
All non-local residents interested in volunteering should use this separate form.
More information about volunteer expectations and requirements at redcross.org.
You can also volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.
The organization is assessing housing and shelter needs in impacted areas and is evaluating the support it receives from donors, volunteers and other partners before making any long-term decisions.
“We ask that your enthusiasm and interest stay long after the first few weeks as volunteers will be critically needed throughout the recovery and rebuilding phase, which may last months or even years,” the organization posted on its website.
The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) is allowing volunteers to register to help, but notes that Puerto Rico is asking for volunteers not to deploy to the communities affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Spread awareness on social media
Sometimes word of mouth (or text) is all it takes. Take part in the relief campaign by retweeting news and alerts about shelters, donations and more from official accounts such as: @PRFAA, @FEMARegion2, @ricardorossello, Univision PR, @USNationalGuard and several news organizations.
And be sure to share your donation links, let people know how to donate and continue to spread awareness with hashtags (#PuertoRico, #MariaPR, #PrayForPuertoRico, #UnidosPorPR, #UnitedForPR are some examples).
Do you know of any additional volunteer or donation opportunities? Let us know in the comments.