RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Volunteers from Virginia are getting ready to head to Puerto Rico to help with disaster relief after Hurricane Fiona.
Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico Sunday. The storm brought severe flash flooding, strong winds and knocked out power for the entire island with a population of millions.
The American Red Cross is preparing to fly out its first volunteer from Virginia Wednesday morning. Crews with the non-profit organization are already on the ground, handing out toiletries, serving meals and providing healthcare.
Volunteers with the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia are also preparing to bring a calm to the chaos. Brad Russell, a mission strategist with the group, said volunteers are ready to go.
“We have crews that are trained and we’ve trained crews in Puerto Rico as well,” he said.
Send Relief, one of the convention’s national partners, held a summer-long session to train volunteers in Puerto Rico on hurricane preparedness and storm cleanup. Some Virginia volunteers trained with people there, too. They learned how to do mud-out and how to use a chainsaw safely, Russell said.
The convention’s partners in Puerto Rico are assessing the damage and will identify some of the American territory’s immediate needs. Russell said some volunteers in the group’s network of 800+ churches will head out there afterward.
“Virginia crews and churches here in Virginia are going to be needed for long-term recovery. We’ve been serving there for five years since Hurricane Maria and still the island was not back to full capacity,” he said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 3 million people in Puerto Rico were still in the dark. Crews on the island said about two feet of rain flooded rivers and washed out neighborhoods and bridges.
“Puerto Rico has been said, by people on the island, that it is always waiting for another crisis or in the middle of a crisis,” Russell said.
He added the natural disaster in Puerto Rico could happen anywhere, so it’s important that help comes from everywhere.
“Send Relief was able to actually stage before the storm in the areas that were projected to be the hardest hit, so that they would have food ready to go, emergency meals ready to distribute,” he said. “Through the giving and through the support of churches here in Virginia all of that work is already going on.”
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