Many in Lebanon County’s sizable Puerto Rican community have spent the last week struggling to get in touch with friends and family on the Caribbean island, which was hammered on Sept. 18 by Hurricane Fiona.
The storm dumped over 30 inches of rain on the island, causing widespread flooding and an island-wide power outage.
One million Puerto Ricans, about a third of the island’s population, were left without drinking water, and at least 16 deaths have been attributed to the hurricane.
Last Sunday afternoon, LebTown attended a food drive for Fiona victims at the downtown Lebanon studios of internet radio station Camara 809. Volunteers were collecting canned food, diapers, first aid kits, sanitizer wipes, flashlights, batteries, and other essentials.
Camara 809 representative Chano Nuevo told LebTown that arrangements are in place to ship the items directly to two churches on the island, instead of through larger organizations, which have in past relief efforts let supplies sit in warehouses.
Lebanon resident and city District Judge Aurelis Figueroa was one of the volunteers, and has relatives in the Puerto Rican towns of Bayamón, Guaynabo, Las Piedras, and Caguas.
“I’ve been able to communicate with my father-in-law and my sister, Daly, by cellphone,” she said. Voicemails left with other relatives still had not been returned.
“It’s poor service right now,” she added. “I haven’t been able to communicate with anyone in Mamey, near Guaynabo. That was my grandfather’s land.”
Internet service, she said, was still “very bad.”
What do Figueroa’s relatives say is most needed? “What’s most needed down there, from what I have gathered, is solar lights, solar fans, anything solar,” she said. C and AAA batteries and adult and baby diapers are also in high demand, she said.
As of July, 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 14.9% of Lebanon County’s population, about 21,300 people, were Hispanic or Latino.
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