Updated, Sept. 21: The city has sent 36 search and rescue personnel to Puerto Rico to help with recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria tore through the Caribbean island Wednesday.
“Now we are stepping up to do more,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement Thursday. “New York City stands with Puerto Rico and will do everything possible to help with recovery.”
In addition to the 36 members the Urban Search and Rescue New York Task Force 1, the city also deployed staff from Emergency Management who are proficient in logistics, debris management, operations and recovery to Puerto Rico’s Emergency Operations Center in San Juan.
“City employees can help out in several ways, including volunteering on the island to support what is expected to be a months-long recovery process or through donations made to the Mayor’s Fund by enrolling in a payroll deduction,” City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito added.
Funds from city employees who opt to make a paycheck donation will be distributed to various relief organizations. Designated firehouses across the five boroughs will also be donation hubs, where New Yorkers can drop off much-needed items like batteries, first aid and baby food.
If you’re looking for another way to help on a larger scale, GoFundMe has set up a designated landing page for Hurricane Maria relief efforts. From there, people can donate to the Direct Impact Fund, a non-profit partner of the fundraising site, create their own fundraiser or donate to the many campaigns already set up for Puerto Rico, Dominica, the U.S. Virgin Islands and more.
Original story, Sept. 20: As Hurricane Maria is leaving a path of devastation in her wake across Puerto Rico, New York City is mobilizing relief efforts.
City officials will hold an emergency meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday to figure out the best course of action, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito told Metro.
“We’re bringing together officials to see how we can map out a coordinated effort, whether it’s donations or material products,” she added. “Separately, the mayor and I have been discussing personnel that could be sent and how quickly, which is dependent on when they can get to the island.”
To everyone in Puerto Rico: New York City is with you. We are ready to send emergency personnel and aid as soon as we can. https://t.co/8i0jcDbfqh— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) September 20, 2017
With its Puerto Rican population currently around 700,000 people, Hurricane Maria is certainly hitting close to home as many still have family on the island, including Mark-Viverito.
She had been in frequent contact with her mother for several hours throughout Wednesday morning, but lost contact with her well before noon.
“She seemed fine, she was safe,” she said of their last contact.
Waking up anxious & afraid. #HurricaneMaria making landfall as we speak. Damage already occurring. Thankfully still in communication w/ Mom.— Melissa MarkViverito (@MMViverito) September 20, 2017
Damage is already happening at our home in Guaynabo and at apt of a dear friend in Condado. And it's only beginning. Imagining the rest.— Melissa MarkViverito (@MMViverito) September 20, 2017
Just before 1:30 p.m., a spokesman from Gov. Ricardo Rossello’s office reported that the entire island of Puerto Rico is “100 percent without power.”
Earlier, spokesman Carlos Mercader told CNN that “this is total detestation. Puerto Rico, in terms of the infrastructure will not be the same. … This is something of historic proportions.”
The effects of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico has been intense. She made landfall near Yabucoa with 155-mph winds, according to the National Hurricane Center, which weakened to 140 mph by 11 a.m., though she remained a Category 4 hurricane.
Such a strong storm has become commonplace in recent weeks, with Hurricane Harvey hitting Texas and the Gulf Coast at the end of August. That storm brought record rainfall and catastrophic flooding throughout the region, and displaced tens of thousands and killed at least 83 people.
Just days later, Hurricane Irma caused major damage in the Caribbean and the Florida Keys, killing at least 101 people in its wake.
“Between Harvey and Irma, there’s a lot at one time, and that puts a strain on federal resources, so we have to try to make sure we don’t get overlooked,” Mark-Viverito said.
What New Yorkers can do to help “will be determined at meeting,” she added. “We want to know what is the most effective way and any collection we do is stuff that is truly needed, like batteries and water. We have to be very focused, and with this and Mexico, we want to do a lot in a short period of time.”
The Speaker was referring of course to the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico City on Tuesday that killed at least 217 people and destroyed dozens of buildings. Yesterday’s earthquake came on the heels of an 8.1 magnitude quake that struck the country’s coast two weeks ago.