CHICAGO — Many in Chicago are trying to figure out how to help their loved ones in Puerto Rico. Donations are pouring in, but figuring out how to get them to the island is proving difficult.
In Chicago’s Humboldt Park, volunteers at Casa Puertorricana have been accepting donations by the truckload. Some are still waiting to hear whether their loved ones are safe.
Casa Puertorricana is filling eight trucks. But for now, all of the items will just sit in a warehouse.
“We can’t get these companies to fly this stuff to Puerto Rico,” said Vilma Colom, community outreach and engagement volunteer at Casa Puertorricana. “We’re not getting the help that we need like everybody else has gotten during these crises during the last four or five months in Texas and Florida.”
“There are thousands of containers in the port of San Juan right now,” said Diana Emmanuelli, a Maria evacuee. “And at the airport there’s tons of aid coming in right now as well but it’s just they can’t distribute it because lack of infrastructure and communications.”
Diana evacuated to Chicago from Puerto Rico right before Hurricane Maria hit. She says getting donations to the island is only half the battle.
“The chain of custody down there right now isn’t being determined as quickly as it should be because of the lack of communication,” she said.
She says because people have no way to communicate truckers can’t be mobilized. She says she’s also heard the government is actually taxing incoming donations and going through everything box by box.
Water, batteries, flashlights and candles are what’s most needed. But if you really want to help money might be the best way, though the Puerto Rico banks are still figuring things out. Airlines are carrying hundred of thousands of pounds of supplies to the island from Chicago – but right now flights are still limited.
A statement from American Airlines to WGN News said:
We are not being allowed to fly our normal schedule into San Juan. Because of the infrastructure damage and power limitations at the airport, we are only being allowed to fly one or two flights a day. Those flights are completely full of relief supplies being sent by American Airlines and our partners as well as from our team members to their families. We are allowing all of our team members (across the U.S.) with family members in Puerto Rico ship them one generator and one 150 lb. box of supplies OR two 150 lb. boxes of supplies free of charge.
So, please rest assured that every airplane we are flying into San Juan is full of relief and recovery supplies.