CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago’s Puerto Rican community was uniting to help loved ones back home, after Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico this week, causing massive flooding, and leaving the entire island without power.
Maria was the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years, and authorities have said recovery will take months.
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez said he wasn’t able to sleep Wednesday night, unable to reach his own family after the devastating storm. He described the dire situation on the island, which is heavily populated by the elderly.
“We have to understand the gravity of the situation. The infrastructure of Puerto Rico is so weak that it’s going to take a really long time. This is not like the electricity going out in the city of Chicago,” he said.
Gutierrez called on Puerto Rican community leaders and residents to come together in this crisis.
He was joined by Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle, several Chicago Aldermen, and disaster relief experts in a packed house at the UrbanTheater Company in Humboldt Park; for a meeting to plan ways people in Chicago can help hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.
So many people showed up, some were forced to stand for the meeting.
Many of those who attended have relatives in Puerto Rico, and to help out any way they can.
Christian Roldan, an artist who moved to Chicago from Puerto Rico three years ago, said he is anxious to talk with his mother, sister, and grandmother who rode out the storm.
“I’m concerned. I’ve not been able to communicate with them. I want to know what’s going on,” he said. “All the flooding, all the trees broken, the houses; I’m concerned about how people will be able to recover after all this crisis.”
Gutierrez said he’s thankful President Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency for Puerto Rico.
Chicago’s Puerto Rican community has planned a number of fundraisers to send money to the hardest-hit areas of the island.
Meanwhile, the National Museum of Mexican Art has set up funds to help victims of the hurricane and the earthquake that occurred in Mexico. Additional efforts to help earthquake victims can be found here.