In the early morning hours, Idan and Saul from Chabad set out in to navigate the inundated flooded streets of Ocean Park in a search and rescue mission to locate members of the community. Communication on the Island was brought to an abrupt halt by the storm damage and many people – especially the elderly and infirm – have not been heard from in almost a week. Emergency services have declared the area a disaster zone and will not attempt to make contact until communications are restored. To see the utter devastation firsthand and so close to home was shocking. Thousands of homes are locked in by the filthy flood-waters even six days post storm. With gratitude to the Almighty we were able to locate the families and bring them food and water supplies. But with extreme gas shortages, even those life-saving missions are curtailed. Friends eager to travel out to their farm in the South and survey the damage, waited on a gas line from 5:30 am to 12:30 pm to receive twenty dollars of gas for each vehicle!
The supply chain on the Island is just not functioning yet and the situation continues to remain dire. The total breakdown of communication equipment has compounded the crisis. Many – myself included – have taken to walking the streets in search of reception to co-ordinate our relief efforts – much of which has been aided by those on the outside who have been assisting with logistical arrangements of aid transport.
Chabad Maria Relief has also partnered with PR4PR to provide critical, humanitarian aid to those in the most challenged areas. PR4PR is a 501(c)3 community service organization in PR which has been servicing over thirteen of San Juan’s most challenged communities, running summer camps and after school and holiday programs for 7-17 year olds.
With the generous support of Nakash Family – Dedicators of the Nakash Family Synagogue in Puerto Rico – a private plane filled with life-saving relief supplies including pallets of food, water, medical goods and other aid arrived at SJU yesterday. All the goods on board were provided by an amazing group of people responding to our distress call in under 24 hours including: Ralph Nakash with ons Shauly and Ariel, Al Shama, Dr. Avishai Neuman, Elie Rowe 911 Emergency Coordinator, Moishe Malamud with his son Yisroel Malamud and Yossi Katz.
The joy and appreciation on the faces of emergency aid recipients was staggering to see! One response was, “I love Israel and the Jewish people; G-d bless you”! We were also grateful to assist in the evacuation of Israeli citizens who have been trapped on the Island with no way off owing to the limited transportation. It was a jolting moment of reality, coordinating and seeing the departure of so many of our dear friends and community members, who are very much a part of our lives on a daily basis – we await your return!
In the short term, the beautiful Island of Puerto Rico is experiencing a great void and emptiness. The loss of lives, destruction of homes, unrecognizable landscape and now the departure of many of its dear residents. However as the natives are oft to say “Viva Puerto Rico” – Puerto Rico is blessed with resilient and loyal people who will persevere and rebuild and Isla Del Encanto will emerge as a stronger and more viable place to live.
So it is time for all of us to do our best and make a difference in the lives of so many – don’t stand idle! Together, let’s bring hope and aid to those awaiting our response by contributing at www.ChabadPR.com/Relief! A great thank you to the continued selfless efforts and financial support of so many! For more updates please visit Facebook.com/chabadpr.
If you have already given monetarily please consider bulk contributions of the following:
Canned foods – small size preferable
Flashlights with Batteries
Long Shelf Milk
With blessings for a G’mar Chasima Tova,
Rabbi Mendel and Rachel Zarchi
Chabad of Puerto Rico – Serving the Caribbean