By Elissa Candiotti SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Although it’s the start of the new year, people in Puerto Rico are still facing the devastation that late 2017 brought. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, residents are pleading for more help with relief efforts from the United States.
“We need more help,” pastor Andres Laracuente said. “We need more people and more resources very fast.”
Half of the island is still without electricity and experts predict it may take until May for power to be fully restored. Trees, street lights, and wires are still down on the streets and many neighborhoods are completely barren. Journalist Wilenie Sepulveda says it’s imperative for people to remember that this long journey is far from over.
“I ask for Trump and America just don’t forget what we’re going through and that way we can recover a little bit quicker,” Sepulveda said.
While volunteers have traveled to Puerto Rico to assist in the recovery, Laracuente says that the distribution of food, water, and clothing across the island still remains a major challenge, a result of the island’s poor infrastructure. Volunteer Zach Mashburn says he has witnessed that struggle himself during his time in San Juan and is calling upon the president to help solve the problem.
“Trump either needs to give Puerto Rico statehood or enable them to have independence,” Mashburn said. “But leaving them in an in-between limbo is going to kill people and kill our economy.”
Many are ecstatic that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is extending its Transitional Shelter Assistant (TSA) program from Jan. 14 to March 20. This 66-day addition will provide short-term shelter for people who have been displaced after the hurricane.
Mashburn hopes that physical help like this will also provide emotional aid, lifting sprits and spreading hope across the island.