Nearly a year ago, Hurricane Irma tore through the Caribbean. The costliest hurricane to ever hit the region, it was followed up by the second costliest, Hurricane Maria. The damage to the islands of the region, most particular Puerto Rico, was heavily covered by the news at the time. Since then, however, coverage has died down. Here, we’re going to take a look at how, almost a year on, the communities affected have been recovering and how help is still needed by people desperately fighting to survive and rebuild.
Though there are still people in need of immediate help, whether it’s rebuilding a roof over their head or supplying a generator to their neighborhood, recovery is starting to move to rebuild the society. NPR reporter at Puerto Rico, Adrian Florido states that “in many ways, the recovery is moving on to a longer-term phase. Remember that FEMA’s money – the Federal Emergency Management Agency – its money is mostly to address the immediate crisis.” Efforts in rebuilding homes and improving infrastructure like the power grid are still far from done. One of the ways that Puerto Rico is getting the help it needs, however, is its tourist industry. Employing over 50,000 people, the island is calling on tourists to visit, to support restaurants, hotels, and local businesses. Much of the money raised through tourism is being put directly into relief efforts.
The business and the community
Nowhere can this link be seen more strongly than in the Virgin Islands. Though the devastation of islands like St. Croix hasn’t been covered as extensively as the Puerto Rican crisis, they were some of the worst hit, with over $7.5 billion requested to rebuild. However, entrepreneurs like Kirk Chewning of Cane Bay Partners are already greatly contributing to the process. Through efforts like the Cane Bay Cares Initiative, they have contributed 44 generators, over 18,000 bottles of water, hundreds of solar lights and more to communities in St. Croix and the Virgin Islands. Initiatives like these still continue to raise funds and seek volunteers to offer immediate aid while greater rebuilding efforts are underway.
The root of the problem
It’s easy to look at the devastation caused by last year’s hurricane system and wonder if anything can be done about it. While it is not the underpinning cause, climate change has been shown to play a role in the increasing severity and frequency of such disasters. Climate change is causing the water level to rise and the temperature of the ocean surface to rise, too. Both factors make storms worse than before and this trend could only grow worse unless we take what measures we can to prevent climate change. Until then, our attention and efforts must go to helping affected areas like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
It can take over twenty years for a city or community to recover from the full extent of the damage caused by a mega-disaster like 2017’s hurricane season. It’s important to remember that the danger isn’t over. Donations, helping hands, and awareness is still greatly needed.