Local students affected by Hurricane Maria's damage to Puerto Rico
COLUMBIA - Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico leaving destruction in its path. The island was left in disarray, and many people's homes were destroyed. The hurricane affected many families on the island, but it also had an impact on some people in the Columbia area.
Several graduate students at MU have family and friends in Puerto Rico. Jasmine Hall is a graduate student who has friends, cousins, aunts, and uncles who live on the northern part of the island.
Hall said she was finally able to contact some of her family on Monday.
"With Irma which was just two weeks before we were very stressed out and worried. So with Maria, it's the same feeling of not knowing if you're going to be able to get in contact with your family, not knowing if they're going to be okay, not knowing anything. It's like a waiting game," Hall said.
Gustavo Santiago is also a graduate student with family in Puerto Rico.
"My entire family is there. Mainly they are in the south of the island," Santiago said. "I have my father, my mother, sisters, cousins, uncles, every family member you can think of there."
Santiago said he received a call from his girlfriend on Monday saying his family was alright. He said it is difficult to get in contact with anyone on the island, especially the southern part of the island, because there is barely any cell phone signal.
Santiago was concerned about one family member's home.
"My biggest thought was my uncle has a house made of wood, so it was pretty old. And I was thinking he is going to end up without a home," Santiago said. "He doesn't have a house anymore."
He said more than anything he was worried about his family's lives.
"I was worried about also their lives because material things can be replaced, but their lives are the most important," Santiago said.
Hall said her grandmother's health issues were affected by Hurricane Maria.
"My grandmother, she had a stroke and she was in a center and she can't get treatment," Hall said.
Both Hall and Santiago said it has been very difficult to send supplies to their family and friends, even though people are in need. Hall said people on the island have been waiting for hours for supplies because they are all at the ports.
"All the supplies are at the ports, but it's about a 10 kilometer drive to get to the ports. And the lines are no longer people amounts, they're kilometer amounts. Miles long of people waiting," Hall said.
She said her cousin in Puerto Rico waited in line on Monday for ice from 4 a.m. to about 2 p.m.
Both Hall and Santiago said the best way to send supplies would be with someone visiting the island because UPS and FedEx are having trouble servicing the island.
Hall had some advice for those who want to help by sending supplies.
"Send those things that you don't think about. Not just water, but diapers and those types of things."
She also said people who are planning on donating money should do their research about the group they are donating to.
"I suggest research who you're giving to and look at what they've done in the past with natural disasters across the globe. And if those people have not done anything or if you've never heard of them, be leery," Hall said. "If you know anybody that's actually going, send them with things. That's great too."