Fiona's aftermath: New York leaders develop plan to help Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic

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Monday, September 26, 2022
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New York leaders are teaming up to help both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic in this time of need after Fiona hit the islands. Joe Torres has the story.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (WABC) -- People in the Caribbean are picking up the pieces after Hurricane Fiona devastated several countries.

At least 16 Americans have died in Puerto Rico in the aftermath and as of Sunday, about 45% of Puerto Ricans are still without power while about 20% are still without running water.

The flooding and power outages hit the island which is still not fully recovered from Hurricane Maria in 2017.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams was in the Dominican Republic Monday morning after touring the damage in Puerto Rico on Sunday.

He is getting a first-hand look at the damage and how New York City can help. And other New York leaders are joining in the effort help both islands in this time of need.

At a news conference Monday morning, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand urged congressional leadership to provide emergency supplemental funding for disaster recovery and relief support as well as $1 billion in nutritional aid for Puerto Rico.

She is also asking the Biden administration to provide robust humanitarian aid and disaster relief for the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean nations impacted by Hurricane Fiona.

"Over the past few years, Puerto Rico has faced crisis after crisis," Gillibrand said. "In 2017, Hurricane Maria killed thousands of people and flattened entire neighborhoods. Supply chain disruptions from COVID and rising prices have left too many Puerto Ricans without enough to eat. And now, even before the island had a chance to recover from the last hurricane, Puerto Rico is again facing devastating flooding and crippling damage to its critical infrastructure. I'm urging Congress and the Biden administration to provide both immediate humanitarian relief and funding for long-term investments in the resiliency of Puerto Rico's electrical grid and other key infrastructure. This is an emergency and we must act now to help Puerto Ricans begin the long road to recovery."

Meanwhile, the mayor along with other New York leaders, acknowledged working to get help for the islands isn't easy, but say they're determined to help out because they say Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are important places to New York City.

"I am a mayor that has gone through a lot and I want to help people who are going through a lot," Adams said. "Far too often in my life, no one was there and I don't want to have a city where we are not there."

Members of the New York and New Jersey state police departments , were sent to the island to help with those efforts.

Engineers from the Department of Buildings will check the structural integrity of hospitals, schools and homes across the island. The cumulative effect of multiple hurricanes and numerous earthquakes can weaken and compromise a building. And some buildings aren't up to code.

"If you don't address it, if they don't address it in a timely manner, it could lead to a collapse," said Julia Marinez with the DOB.

Meanwhile, work is still underway to restore power to half of the island of Puerto Rico. Residents, there are relying on generators for basic needs like fresh water more than a week after the storm rattled the island.

Tiffany Jones owns a small nutrition shop now powered, in part, by a small generator and 80% of her product is now in the garbage.

"Today we practically throw away, throw out products because they had expired and because of the heat," Jones said. "So it has been really tough."

Just being open is a victory. Most of the surrounding businesses remain closed, the schools are shuttered and generators are providing power to the hospital.

For Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, billions of dollars in federal assistance for storm victims is not a political ploy -- it's a personal plea.

Yabucoa on Puerto Rico's eastern shore is her hometown. Hurricane Maria made landfall there five years ago and now she will return home to help her neighbors who are suffering.

"I am going to Puerto Rico, there are 180 families in Yabucoa that lost everything - everything," she said. "I'm going there to get refrigerators and stoves to families - basic appliances. It's horrible. They don't deserve this."

RELATED | How to help Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic during Hurricane Fiona

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