From Pittsburgh To Puerto Rico: Mounds Of Relief Aid Sent To Island Post-Hurricanes

Jul 9, 2018

Pittsburghers have collected and sent millions of pounds of humanitarian supplies to Puerto Rico since the island was struck by hurricanes Irma and Maria last September. Efforts are ongoing, and have been led by Brother's Brother Foundation and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

BBF has sent 70 container-loads of items, including water, food and clothes, to the island. It also sent 18 container-loads of medical supplies--tipping the scale at 1.2 million pounds--that were distributed to more than 20 hospitals. 

The Pittsburgh Pirates collected and distributed over 400,000 pounds of relief with the help of the BBF. Distribution on the island has been led by Raul Rodriguez, who says there's still work to be done -- especially on the electrical grid.

"The biggest problem is that the grid is not strong," he said. "The investment to get Puerto Rico into a strong grid is going to take money and time."

He estimates repairs will cost millions of dollars. In the meantime, generators and solar panels are still needed for the parts of the island that remain without power.

Recent reporting from NPR estimates thousands of Puerto Ricans remain without elelctricity, particularly in mountainous regions that are difficult to access.

"Bridges were hurt, and it's very hard to get there," Rodriguez said. "So we still have a lot of challenges in sectors of different cities."

Rodriguez says help from the federal government has been slow, and many people are still using blue FEMA tarps as roofs for their homes. Hurricane season began June 1, and the tarps are not strong enough to hold up against high speed winds. Despite this, he believes last fall was a valuable lesson.

"The local government and the federal government, I think they learned, and they saw the mistakes that were made," Rodriguez said.  "We know that the electrical power in Puerto Rico is fragile, we don't have to wait until another 200 mile an hour hurricane to know we're going to have difficulties. We need to prepare ourselves."