J.Lo. donates $1M to hurricane-hit Puerto Rico

Monday September 25 2017

Pop star and actress Jennifer Lopez on Sunday

Pop star and actress Jennifer Lopez on Sunday offered $1 million (Sh103.2M) for Puerto Rico as she helped launch an effort by New York state to support the hurricane-battered US island. PHOTO| AFP 

By AFP
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Pop star and actress Jennifer Lopez on Sunday offered $1 million (Sh103.2M) for Puerto Rico as she helped launch an effort by New York state to support the hurricane-battered US island.

Lopez, born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents, said she was donating the money to assorted charities and would work with fellow Latin stars to do more after Hurricane Maria killed at least 33 people in Puerto Rico and Dominica just after the devastation of mega-storm Irma.

"This was the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in nearly 20 years and the damage is horrible," Lopez told a news conference with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

"We urgently need to dedicate attention and support to Puerto Rico and the Caribbean through donations and any help," she said in Spanish.

Lopez, who is dating baseball legend Alex Rodriguez, said the couple were working with athletes to arrange two aircraft to deliver supplies.

New York-based airline JetBlue also promised $1 million in-kind by transporting people and cargo for relief efforts.

Lopez was named co-chair of a New York state initiative to assist Puerto Rico, which will include public donation centers and government monitoring for potential abuses in aid solicitation.

View of the flooded streets of Arenoso,

View of the flooded streets of Arenoso, northeastern Dominican Republic, on September 24, 2017 after the passage of Hurricane Maria. The storm is blamed for 33 deaths, many of them on the tiny and poor island of Dominica and 13 in Puerto Rico. PHOTO| AFP

The initiative comes two days after Cuomo visited Puerto Rico with donations that included 34,000 bottles of water and 9,600 ready-to-eat meals.

New York has historically been a hub for Puerto Ricans who move to the mainland United States. More than 700,000 residents of New York City identify as Puerto Rican, along with nearly as many people elsewhere in the state, according to non-governmental studies.

"We know how much destruction has been done, and how hard it is going to be to rebuild Puerto Rico," Cuomo said.

"We also know that given the financial pressures that the island was under before, it makes the task even more difficult," he said

CONDITIONS GROWING DIRE IN PUERTO RICO

Living conditions in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico are growing worse by the day, with tired, bewildered people lining up to buy scarce fuel and food Sunday amid a blackout and little to no telephone service.

Puerto Ricans are spending hours waiting in line to buy whatever they can, but often go home empty-handed if they do not manage a purchase before a dusk to dawn curfew takes effect.

Cell phone service is spotty at best and hotels are also running out of diesel fuel for their generators.

The general manager of a Marriott hotel in the capital San Juan told guests that if they did not find diesel by Sunday night, the entire building would be evacuated.

Hurricane Maria slammed the US island territory before dawn Wednesday as a category 4 storm on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale, as part of a vicious and deadly tear through the Caribbean.

The storm is blamed for 33 deaths, many of them on the tiny and poor island of Dominica and 13 in Puerto Rico.
Authorities are also trying to evacuate people living downriver from a dam said to be in danger of collapsing because of flooding from the hurricane.

The 1920's era earthen dam on the Guajataca River in northwest Puerto Rico cracked on Friday, prompting the government to issue an order for mass evacuations in downstream towns.

Family members collect belongings after

Family members collect belongings after hurricane force winds destroyed their house in Toa Baja, west of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 24, 2017 following the passage of Hurricane Maria. Authorities in Puerto Rico rushed on September 23, 2017 to evacuate people living downriver from a dam said to be in danger of collapsing because of flooding from Hurricane Maria. PHOTO| AFP

A Puerto Rican government official said the damage had sent water gushing through and prompted fears of flash flooding.

On Friday, public safety chief Hector Pesquera had cited a different cause for the initial dam failure, saying a drain that normally releases water from the dam in a controlled fashion had broken, sending it gushing out in torrents.

WORST STORM IN A CENTURY

Puerto Rico was already battling dangerous floods elsewhere on the island because of Hurricane Maria, which Governor Ricardo Rossello has called the most devastating storm to hit the island in a century.

In a 1500 GMT update, the US National Hurricane Center said Maria had top winds of 105 miles (169 kilometers) per hour and was located about 475 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

Damaged homes amid mudslides from Hurricane

Damaged homes amid mudslides from Hurricane Maria are seen in Naranjito, southwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 24, 2017. Rossello called Maria the most devastating storm in a century after it destroyed the US territory's electricity and telecommunications infrastructure. PHOTO| AFP

Of the 13 victims in Puerto Rico, eight died in the northern town of Toa Baja, one of the worst-hit areas which was ravaged by winds of more than 125 miles per hour and then hit by flooding when the island's largest river, La Plata, burst its banks.

Marina Montalbo, a 36-year-old secretary from Isabela, was trying to rest in a shelter with her husband and her 11-month-old baby.

"They made us evacuate. It was a really difficult thing to have to do," she said, sobbing. "We just had to get out; they were screaming that we had to get out."

Across the island, streets were littered with debris from the storm, with toppled trees, street signs and power cables strewn everywhere.

The torrential rain also turned some roads into muddy brown rivers, impassable to all but the largest of vehicles.

Puerto Rico's electricity network has been crippled by the storm and engineers say it could take months for power to be fully restored.