BY BARRY WARNER
More than 100 days after Hurricane Maria swept Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017 nearly half of its residents, about 1.5 million people remain in the dark and it will take to the end of February 2018 to restore most power. Hard to reach rural areas will not get power until the end of May, just in time for the upcoming hurricane season. With sustained winds of 155 mph at landfall, the Category 4 storm Hurricane Maria was so powerful that it ripped off metal roofs, generated flash floods that knocked out the electrical grid and decimated many communities. Children and families are still suffering, complicated by severe power, fuel, communication, food and potable water challenges.
“Action is an antidote to despair! There are still parts of Puerto Rico that have received very little aid and some have not received anything. I have relatives on the island. The Task Force of about 10 members has been collecting non-perishable food and other supplies at drop-off points around campus. Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. and its abysmal situation affects us all. We are planning to send shipments to people in the southern and western portions of the island far from San Juan, where much aid has been centered, with the help of Lift-A-Vet” said Inez Rivera, RCC Faculty Counselor and Volunteer Task Force Director. “The island is difficult to get to because of legal issues that resulted from the Jones Act. There are others in the County who have supported the collection. A teacher at the Pomona Middle School enlisted 4th graders to fill shoeboxes with supplies and 50 boxes were donated. In addition, a Rabbi in Nyack arranged a collection of items for the RCC shipment. Also, FEMA has been unable to supply the blue tarps that were to be placed over structures that lost their roofs in the storm on the tropical island.”
RCC Nursing student and Task Force volunteer Ronnie Rolls said, “I have relatives on the island and they are grateful to receive the supplies. The RCC community is wonderful and many people want to help. The situation on the island that resulted from Hurricane Maria hit me like a punch in the stomach.”
Lift-A-Vet has teamed up with a coalition of small businesses out of the Bronx to help deliver assistance to Puerto Rico. The trucks are driven to Jacksonville, Florida where the relief goods are placed on pallets and delivered to Puerto Rico via barge. Upon arrival, the assistance is received by volunteers and distributed throughout clinics on the island.
Getting relief goods from the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico is much more expensive than sending them to other Caribbean islands as a result of the century-old Jones Act. Known as the ‘Merchant Marine Act’ and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson, It is a 1920 regulation that requires that goods shipped from one American port to another be transported on a ship that is American built, American-owned and crewed by U.S. citizens. Therefore, basic shipment of goods from the island and back, must be conducted by expensive protected ships, rather than exposing them to global competition.
After Hurricane Maria damaged tens of thousands of homes by ripping of their roofs in Puerto Rico, a newly created company with an unproven record, won more than 30 million dollars in contracts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide the blue emergency tarps . The company never delivered those urgently needed tarps that still remain in demand by the hurricane victims. A tarp or tarpaulin is a large sheet of strong, flexible waterproof material that is placed over a structure without a roof, for protection from the elements.
Please join the Rockland Community College students, faculty and staff in collecting and donating the following urgently needed items:
- Non-Food Items: batteries, flashlights and portable lanterns.
- Non-Perishable Food: cases of water, canned food, powdered milk.
- For Babies: diapers and wipes.
- Health and Hygiene: first aid supplies, multivitamins, probiotics, toothbrushes and toothpaste, soaps and deodorants.
For additional information about drop-off locations call Inez Rivera at 845-574-4410 or visit www.sunyrockland.edu/go/puertorico