CT residents, Red Cross and nonprofits work to help loved ones i - WFSB 3 Connecticut

TRACKING MARIA

CT residents, Red Cross and nonprofits work to help loved ones in Puerto Rico

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Red Cross officials talk about need for volunteers in Puerto Rico. (WFSB) Red Cross officials talk about need for volunteers in Puerto Rico. (WFSB)
  • TRACKING MARIACT residents, Red Cross and nonprofits work to help loved ones in Puerto RicoMore>>

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FARMINGTON, CT (WFSB) -

At the exact time, Maria was ravaging Puerto Rico, local Puerto Ricans were mobilizing efforts to help the island.  

At one point, Puerto Rico was completely without power throughout the island, so loved ones can find out if anyone is OK.

“Two days ago, power was back, it just went out,” Joel Matos, who has relatives in Puerto Rico, said.

That was the last update for Matos, who’s family lives in Ciales, Puerto Rico. Since then, it's been agonizing silence because Hurricane Maria made landfall on Wednesday at a category four and all he could do was watch. 

“It's tragedy out there, it's bad right now,” Matos said. 

When Irma delivered a glancing blow, power in some spots were knocked out for days and flooding was a big concern. Maria made a direct hit on Wednesday.

"A lot of people are losing their houses, everything they worked for, it makes you feel really bad," Kayla Vazquez, who has relatives in Puerto Rico, said.?

In 2014, the Puerto Rican population in Connecticut was 8.4 percent of the total state population, according to the Center for Puerto Rican Studies

Puerto Rican leaders from around the state are conferencing in Hartford. While thoughts are focused on their own relatives who haven't been heard from as well, they're mobilizing a massive fundraising effort. More than 20 people from various Puerto Rican associations are on this call. 

"There's a lot of Puerto Ricans here, everybody is worried about what they can do and how to help. It's good to see everybody together," Vazquez said. 

The plan is to streamline all donations through what's being named the Hurricane Relief Network. Fernando Betancourt with the San Juan Center said the biggest need is money.

Because electricity is out throughout the entire island, power restoration will be the key to survival because it's the also key to hospitals and the airport. 

“We are not sending clothing or water. The most important thing is to recover the grid,” Betancourt said. 

The Connecticut Chapter of the American Red Cross has put the call out for volunteers to go to Puerto Rico. It will be several days before they will be able to get own there to help with the Hurricane Maria relief effort.

The Red Cross officials said they won’t know how many volunteers they need until they can get a grasp of the damage done by the hurricane. There are some volunteers who are already sheltering there until the storm is over, so they can immediately get to work after, according to the American Red Cross.

“Those are really hardship assignments,” Stephanie Arcangelo with American Red Cross said. “No power, no water, really rough conditions but we do have folks who are willing and able to go down there and endure a little discomfort to help those impacted.“

About 100 volunteers from Connecticut have already responded to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

The American Red Cross is also accepting donations. To donate, click here

To donate to the Hispanic Federation, click here

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