Nearly 300,000 still without power from previous hurricane; ‘one of worst situations island has ever faced’
by Rick Jones and Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE – The Atlantic hurricane season is living up to its title as Hurricane Maria wreaks havoc on Puerto Rico today. The Category 4 storm came ashore this morning with winds of 155 mph, just two mph below Category 5 status. The National Hurricane Center says this is the first Category 4 storm to make landfall in Puerto Rico since 1932.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has been in communication with the Rev. Edwin Gonzales-Castillo, stated clerk of San Juan Presbytery. He said the northwest part of the island was evacuated yesterday in preparation for Maria’s arrival.
Gonzales-Castillo also told PDA that five of the 15 churches in the presbytery were still without electricity from Hurricane Irma. With Maria, he says some may be without power for up to three months.
With the government still struggling to restore power to more than 280,000 people, after Irma, Doris Garcia Rivera, president of the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico says Hurricane Maria is one of the worst situations the island has ever faced.
“We’ve done everything we can to keep the people who work at the seminary and its facilities protected, by moving classes and administration to two different sites,” said Garcia Rivera. “I marvel at both the commitment of our faculty and our students — for keeping spirits high and coming to classes even when they do not have water or electricity at home.”
After Garcia waited for over 45 minutes to fill her car with gas Tuesday evening, she said the young cashier smiled at her. She realized than that her fellow Boricuas (Puerto Ricans) are also doing their best to be responsible with their jobs, as they cope with the hurricane and protect their families.
“I trust the spirt of our community that opens its hands to help each other will be present after Maria’s passing, as it has been in these hours before the storm,” she said. “We ask for your prayers, as we hold on to God and embrace our loved ones. Knowing that sisters and brothers like you are surrounding and uplifting us will keep us strong and bring peace to our hearts.”
Gonzales-Castillo says none of the churches in the presbytery have generators. But, he adds, the Presbyterian Church in Hato Rey in San Juan is serving as a shelter. Efforts are underway to secure a generator for the church.
PDA has been in ongoing conversation with the disaster committee for the Synod of Puerto Rico before and after Hurricane Irma, assessing need. They expect to provide more assistance after Maria has passed.
“Hurricane Maria has already caused devastating damage in Dominica and other islands in the Caribbean. PDA is prepared to assist our sisters and brothers in the region as soon as we can,” said Jim Kirk, PDA’s associate for national disaster response. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who are still recovering from one storm while dealing with a second major hurricane.”
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is the emergency response and refugee program of the denomination, committed to the long-term journey of recovery of communities adversely affected by a crisis or catastrophic event. It is funded by the One Great Hour of Sharing and raises designated funds for responding to specific disasters.
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