AUSTIN (KXAN) — A history professor from the University of Texas at Austin returned Monday after Hurricane Fiona hit during his trip home to Puerto Rico.
Alberto Martínez said he decided not to cancel his visit despite the forecast showing the island in the storm’s path. The hurricane ultimately knocked out power to the entire island and caused more than two feet of rain to fall over the weekend, resulting in at least two deaths.
“We’re talking about bridges that were washed away, houses that were wiped out, streets that are blocked and millions of people that are without electricity or running water,” Martínez said. “It’s been a pretty bad disaster considering what the people of Puerto Rico have already gone through.”
He said he especially wanted to stay to help protect his mother’s apartment from the storm. He described its effects more of a disaster caused by water rather than wind.
“People, who lived instead on hills that are mostly soil without a lot of tree and roots holding it all together, had their houses flooded down the hill, and now they’re homeless,” Martínez said. “It’s going to be crushing to see how many people are now homeless because of this, and, for that reason, we really hope anyone from the United States can feel sympathy and don’t donate some money, any kind of support — whether it’s donations or funds to any of the various firms that are doing some of these recovery processes.”
Fiona slammed Puerto Rico five years after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory, a storm which the island hasn’t fully recovered from yet. It’s reported more than 3,000 homes on the island remain covered by blue tarps after they sustained serious damage during Maria.
Following that 2017 hurricane, Martínez joined two other faculty members in creating a new group at UT Austin called the Puerto Rican Organization for Educational Support and Advocacy (PROESA). According to the group’s website, the goal at that time was “to pull together any and all individuals at UT Austin who wish to support Puerto Rico’s recovery, and more broadly, to facilitate ways for persons interested in Puerto Rico’s culture, history, or economy to meet one another.”
Recommendations about where to donate
For those who’d like to help those affected by Hurricane Fiona, Martínez shared two suggestions for relief organizations where people can donate money.
The first is Techos Pa’Mi Gente, a nonprofit that formed after the 2017 hurricane there and works to provide “construction of decent roofs and housing rehabilitation in communities affected by natural disasters,” according to its website.
The other option is the PRxPR – Relief & Rebuild Fund, which its organizers state 100% of the donations will go to Fiona victims directly. Its website describes the fund mostly focuses on “food/agriculture, clean water and fuel/renewable energy initiatives.”
Hurricane Fiona strengthened into a Category 3 storm Tuesday and became the first major hurricane of the season, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm is currently bringing hurricane conditions to the Turks and Caicos. It may strengthen into a Category 4 storm by Wednesday.
Martínez said he’s unsure if any local relief efforts have been arranged yet, so he’s asking anyone who does organize something to send him an email at email@example.com.