Florida, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Texas and other countries are still recuperating from the recent hurricanes that have reached their shores, according to the Associated Press. LDS members affected by the after effects of the hurricane said they are grateful for the church’s rapid humanitarian aid effort.
Spencer Ingley, an assistant biology professor from Florida, said he kept in touch with his family in Florida despite the time difference. He spoke with them until he fell asleep in Hawaii, around the same time when Hurricane Irma hit Florida early in the morning. He said he never lost cell service so he knew they were all right.
The LDS Church has been a good way to help people through the disaster, said Ingley. “My dad is the high priest group leader in their ward. He was telling me how they had a calling and chart, so within a few minutes if things happened they knew what everybody’s situation was.” This chart would help them know what victims needed and how they were affected.
In Texas, Hurricane Harvey devastated coastal cities and flooded the streets of Houston, killing at least 74 people, according to AP. The head of the National Flood Insurance Program, Roy Wright, also estimated that there would be about $11 billion in payouts to insured homeowners, which would make Harvey the second costliest storm in the history of the federal insurance program. Charities have also raised more than $350 million in less than three weeks following the hurricane.
In Florida and Puerto Rico, it has been reported of rising death numbers, basic commodities being sold for extreme prices and desperate victims looting to survive.
Marla Peterson, a professional model from Florida, said in a phone interview, “People are getting arrested for [stealing] groceries.” She said there has been a lot of road rage, people screaming over water, basic food supplies, and gas. Peterson said this happens because some people were living paycheck to paycheck. “It’s really, really scary,” she said.
Peterson mentioned that the local wards had been reaching out because some ward members have had power from underground cables, her bishop, home teachers and visiting teachers reached out to her.
Peterson said, “I’m really glad to be a member. I cannot imagine going through something like this without my Lord. Where I am, I’m isolated. It’s nice to belong to a community that was prepared for this natural disaster because the church teaches us [to be prepared].”
To prepare for the storm in Florida, the LDS Church shipped supplies to Atlanta, Georgia to be taken to the damaged areas after Hurricane Irma hit, according to Mormon Newsroom. It also prepared food for for victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, preparing food before the hurricane hit. Afterward, fellow Texan members went out and helped their neighbors one by one through Mormon Helping Hands.
Although Florida was hit the hardest, Irma also affected other places like Puerto Rico and Cuba, according to AP. Eyewitness Michelle Mestre, a hotel marketing employee in Puerto Rico, said in a phone interview her neighborhood still has no power and water despite being hit hard. Mestre said she was without water for four days and without power for seven. She mentioned as well other people in the country will not have power for four months.
Mestre said a lot of the people who come to the hotel she works at come from harder hit areas–mostly single moms coming with their children and looking for their husbands. She mentioned a Palestinian mother coming in with two little girls and a newborn, looking for her husband.
“She doesn’t have anything, and she doesn’t even have a passport for her newborn to go back to Palestine,” Mestre said. The fathers of families in this same situation disappeared as the military came in and started to take them and fly them over. Mestre said she and the hotel were doing what they could to help her.
he Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported the government has begun the long recovery process, according to AP. People are returning to their homes or going into apartments or hotels for temporary housing, while thousands of people remain in emergency shelters. Some schools are still shut down as they are being repaired.