Puerto Ricans In SWFL Feel "Desperation", Can't Reach Relatives
Puerto Ricans in Southwest Florida are having difficulty getting in contact with loved ones on the island since Hurricane Maria damaged power grids.
There are people who haven't heard anything from their families and those who know very little about relatives based on second-hand information.
Reverend Israel Suarez of Cape Coral said he feels "desperation" because he hasn't heard from his sister, three brothers or the rest of his family.
"It's painful when you can't get in contact with the people you love so much," said Suarez.
Suarez is originally from Rio Piedras. He visited the island after Hurricane Irma brushed Puerto Rico and left before Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory. He said Puerto Rico still looked beautiful after Irma, but after Maria, he's not so sure.
"It's a different Puerto Rico," Suarez sad. "It's not the island you saw before."
Carlos Trabal lives in Fort Myers and hasn't received any word on his family in Puerto Rico either.
"I have family all over the island," said Trabal. "From San Juan to Mayaguez. That's where we have a lot of family that we haven't been able to get in contact with."
He said that all he can do is pray that his family is okay.
But there has been hope for some Southwest Floridians who have relatives in Puerto Rico. Some have indirectly learned that their families are okay.
Maritza Caro lives in Fort Myers, but grew up in Isabela, Puerto Rico. That's where her family is.
"I did get a message last night from a neighbor's daughter and the message indicated that they were fine," said Caro. "They have water, no electric, no phone. But they're managing. They're doing okay."
David Acevedo, who lives in Cape Coral and is originally from Hatillo, has also learned his family is safe. A friend in San Juan checked on Acevedo's parents who live an hour away and returned to the capitol city to find a phone signal.
"My friend who visited them only said they were fine," said Acevedo "There were no other details. I don't have much, really."
Acevedo said he wishes he could speak with his parents. He said his had has a medical condition and needs electricity for his treatment--most of the island is without power. The Mayor of San Juan said it could take up to six months to restore power. Acevedo said while the infrastructure and landscape of Puerto Rico may be damaged, one thing remains intact:
"It's just us. The people. The Puerto Ricans. We're going to get back up and we're going to rebuild."
There are a few ways to get check in on your family. One way is to call the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration’s Washington D.C. office at 202-800-3133 or 202-778-0710. They’re creating a database of people who are still missing and unaccounted for.
Also, the island is divided into 12 zones. Each zone has a phone number. Determine which zone your family is in and call that number to check in on the area.
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