22nd September 2017
UPDATE: After Hurricane Maria decimated Dominica and then ravaged Puerto Rico, Samaritan’s Purse has responded by sending a disaster assistance response team (DART) and emergency supplies to each island. Generators have been flown to Puerto Rico to help residents dealing without electricity—a situation that may last for many months to come.
An 18-member DART is on the ground in Puerto Rico, bringing heavy-duty shelter plastic, hygiene kits, and more generators via Samaritan’s Purse aircraft. San Juan will continue to be the logistics hub for our multinational relief response across the Caribbean. A Samaritan’s Purse team has been there for some time coordinating the Hurricane Irma response.
A 10-member DART is on Dominica and will coordinate distribution of heavy-duty shelter plastic and hygiene kits.
Samaritan’s Purse has been working with partner churches to distribute shelter kits to residents on the Turks and Caicos in anticipation of the Category 3 storm’s arrival. We also provided 30 generators to government and church shelters. Irma’s winds and storm surge first lashed these islands on Friday 8th September.
Hurricane Maria—a Category 5 storm at the time—raked Dominica on Monday 18th September. Because Samaritan’s Purse has had such a large ministry footprint on multiple Caribbean islands after Irma’s destructive path, we were able to send one of our Disaster Assistance Response Team members on Wednesday to view the damage on Dominica. As a result, we’ve begun looking into our capacity to fly in relief supplies to assist the 73,500 beleaguered residents there.
Dominica is a mountainous Caribbean island nation with lush tropical rainforests and sprawling plantations, where sugar cane, bananas, and citrus fruits are grown. Maria stripped away vegetation, snapped trees in half, ripped off roofs, and slung debris in every direction. An estimated 75 percent of the homes are now uninhabitable. There is a decreased availability of clean water and food.
The damage was “mind-boggling,” said Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit. Maria tore the roof off of his home.
Downgraded to a Category 4, Maria next pummeled Puerto Rico. Its 155-mph winds knocked out electricity to the entire island, leaving its 3.4 million people in the dark. It triggered landslides and massive flooding as roads turned into raging debris-laden rivers. “It’s nothing short of a major disaster,” said Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said.
We have a team on the island to coordinate a major logistical and operations hub, from which we’ve flown multiple aircraft filled with supplies across the Caribbean. Our team members are safe, and we were able to relocate our planes before Maria hit the island.
At least 18 people have died in Maria’s wake throughout the Caribbean.
Meanwhile, we continue to distribute relief supplies on the island of St. Martin. So far, we’ve passed out thousands of blankets, hygiene kits, high-energy biscuits, and shelter tarps. We also have installed equipment in different neighborhoods to convert seawater to clean drinking water.
At the same time, we are working on the island of Antigua, where we are reaching out to about 1,600 displaced residents of Barbuda. They were evacuated to Antigua after Hurricane Irma obliterated that island. We are looking to help them transition back home and rebuild.
In addition, Samaritan’s Purse continues to assist homeowners in Texas and Florida, still recovering after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma rampaged through their two states. We are working at five sites in Texas and four locations in Florida.