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Puerto Rico

For Yamyria Morales, her baby daughter and 2 year old son Jonael, home for now is a couple of cots in an elementary school gymnasium in Vega Alta, an hour west of San Juan.

"I've lost track of when I arrived here," Morales says. "It's been really hard."

Morales, a 25-year-old single mom, came to the shelter with her kids and her father just days after Hurricane Maria destroyed her wooden home in Sabana Hoyos, about 20 miles away.

"Whatever little I had, I lost," she says.

Javier Gonzalez has joined a human tide of more than 130,000 U.S. citizens arriving in Florida since Hurricane Maria wrecked Puerto Rico, grateful for a place to start over but resenting how their island has been treated since the disaster.

After Hurricane Harvey flooded her city of Houston in August, Dr. Jennifer McQuade planned to donate socks to those affected. Instead, surprised by the lack of medical care at a nearby shelter, McQuade, an oncologist, became the unofficial leader of a group of physicians and mothers providing emergency aid at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. She triaged patients, solicited donations and recruited more doctors to join.

Many residents are making daily visits to distribution sites, where the Army has set up portable water purification systems.

After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, 18-year-old Ledishla Acevedo booked a flight to Miami in hopes of continuing her college education in Florida.

When she arrived at her cousin’s house here, she turned on the lights and started to cry.

Then she took a hot shower and cried some more.

Kyanna Riggins / WUSF Public Media

Volunteers from the Suncoast Animal League returned from their rescue trip in Puerto Rico Tuesday  night.

Along with them came more than 100 dogs and cats who were unable to be properly cared for due to the limited resources available following Hurricane Maria.

At Puerto Rico’s request, Florida Governor Rick Scott will travel to the devastated island Friday to offer advice about how to speed up efforts to restore the island’s power.

PATILLAS, Puerto Rico – Jan Carlo Pérez’s family has a farm in Patillas, Puerto Rico. It’s a town of lush green hillside forests known as the Caribbean island’s “emerald of the south.” But right now Patillas – close to where Hurricane Maria made landfall in September – is a struggling disaster casualty.

“You can see the barn is completely destroyed,” Pérez says during a walk around his property this month during a light drizzle. “We had fruit trees over there, the star fruit, the bread fruit. It’s all, it’s all gone….”

A North Carolina-based engineering battalion is making slow progress repairing roads that were blocked or damaged in Hurricane Maria. But months of work lies ahead.

Florida Senate lawmakers are wary of Governor Rick Scott spending emergency dollars in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.  A Puerto Rican state senator is urging lawmakers to prepare for evacuees.

After 14 people died at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills following Hurricane Irma, the ongoing question of what to do about nursing home regulations at the federal level has been answered. At least, by one lawmaker. 

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced on Monday that she is planning to file a  bill, and if it is passed she says it will strengthen how rules for nursing homes are enforced around the nation. 

USF Health

A pair of physicians from the University of South Florida have returned to Tampa after a trip to Puerto Rico, but they're already looking forward to going back to help in the island's long-term recovery.

SAN JUAN – Like many in Congress, Florida Senator Bill Nelson had been frustrated by not being able to see Puerto Rico’s hurricane destruction first hand. So Sunday he took a commercial flight to the U.S. island territory – and voiced some criticism of U.S. relief efforts.

Caribbean American Civic Movement

Groups in the Tampa Bay area are mounting humanitarian missions to Puerto Rico and holding fundraisers for victims following Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has co-signed a letter asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to send more support to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Health-care funding was already tight before the storms, particularly in financially unstable Puerto Rico, where nearly half the population is covered by Medicaid.

Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, shutting down the island’s roads and power systems, leaving many isolated and in the dark. Now thousands are evacuating the U.S. territory for the mainland. Many may settle in Florida’s purple counties ahead of the 2018 elections.

Carol Guzy for NPR

A pair of University of South Florida physicians left over the weekend for Puerto Rico with some much-needed medical supplies. But it's just the beginning of USF's outreach to the island.

51 Puerto Rican law students have signed up to enroll in universities. 18 schools, including seven in Florida, have agreed to help students fleeing the battered island.

Family members who fled Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated their town of Coamo gathered for dinner in a Lehigh Acres home this week.


Wikimedia Commons

In the past decade, Puerto Rico has seen over 10 percent of their population leave for Florida and other parts of the U.S. mainland due to a deep economic crisis. This number is expected to spike as Tampa Bay area schools prepare for an influx of displaced students from Puerto Rico in the ongoing aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

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