PUERTO RICO: Salesian missionaries continue to assess their own damage from Hurricane Maria while aiding community residents
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries are continuing to address community needs while dealing with their own property damage in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Officials have been unable to give an accurate death toll from the storms as of yet. CNN is reporting that about 1 million people are still without running water and 3 million of the country’s 3.4 million are without power. Roads have washed away, hampering supply deliveries and travel.
Puerto Rico has had homes, schools, and buildings destroyed. Thousands of people remain in shelters because their homes have been destroyed. Government officials fear without water and power that a dire humanitarian crisis looms. It’s been reported that it can take up to six months to restore these services to parts of the island.
Salesian missionaries have six Salesian communities in Puerto Rico including two in San Juan and one in the communities of Catano, Aíbonito, Aguadilla and Orocovis. Salesian sisters are also working in the communities of Aguadilla, Orocovis and Santurce. Salesian missionaries are reporting that all communities have been affected. Information has been coming in slowly with assessments of damage to both Salesian facilities and in their surrounding communities. Roofs have been damaged as well as trees uprooted and other property damage. Like many of the surrounding homes and businesses, Salesian houses, youth centers and educational facilities lack electricity and running water.
“Puerto Rico has been devastated by the hurricane and many people have lost their homes and their livelihoods,” explains Father Adan Marrero, a Salesian missionary in Puerto Rico. “Salesians have also suffered damage to infrastructure, sports grounds, schools and community residences, but all our colleagues and our beneficiaries are safe. We will continue to support our communities with shelter and food and other supplies as they are available, and we will be here for the long haul of rebuilding.”
Salesian Father Jorge Santiago from the Salesian Center in Cantera was able to communicate the needs in San Juan at this time. He noted the community was in need of medications, canned food, drinking water, mattresses and bed linens, and wood. Other Salesian communities are expressing the same needs. Salesian missionaries have been able to distribute bottles of water, clothing and other limited food supplies as they become available.
Within the Salesian community of San Juan Bautista in Orocovis, Salesian missionaries have two parishes, 11 chapels and a youth center. A river traverses the entire city and in the wake of the hurricane, flash flooding and mudslides destroyed all types of buildings, including the parish church and several buildings in its path. The three Salesian missionaries living in the community have been working hand in hand with the community, receiving people and opening their spaces to the Department of Family Services, who lost its building and require a place to coordinate and assist residents of Orocovis. It has been reported that 3,000 homes were affected in the first hours of the hurricane and at its peak point close to 4,000 people were in shelters. The Salesian community is in need of two electric generators and three cisterns on the roofs to supply water, among other needs.
The Salesian community and parish of St. Francis de Sales of Cataño is located 40km from San Juan. Two Salesian missionaries reside at this house and have the parish church and four chapels, all without electricity or running water. This community has found it very difficult to meet its food supply and fuel needs. The municipality of this district has set up a shelter in a nearby public high school for residents of this community that have lost their homes due to the heavy flooding. Salesian facilities in this community are also heavily damaged with roofs needing full repair, fallen trees and other debris on the properties, and other building damage. The Salesian community is in need of generators and water.
“Because Salesian missionaries live in the communities where they work, they are among the first to respond when disasters strike,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “They are also well experienced in handling the logistics of a humanitarian crisis and ensuring that relief supplies are accessed by those who need it most.”
In response to the several devastating hurricanes in 2017, including Hurricane Irma and Maria, Salesian Missions has launched a new hurricane fund to support Salesian programs in countries affected by these devastating storms. Those who want to support these efforts are urged to make a donation online at salesianmissions.org/give-hurricane.