September 26th, 2017
Hurricane Maria recently made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane, killing at least 10 people and leaving much of the island without power or water. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, millions more are looking to rebuild—the storm destroyed the island of Dominica, killing at least 15 people, and devastated the Dominican Republic, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Turks and Caicos.
I was born and raised outside of San Juan, in a town called Cupey, and left the island to study in the States. Today, I still have family there, as well as in Barranquitas, towards the center of the island. The roof broke off my grandmother’s terrace, a place filled with many memories of family gatherings growing up. My uncles, who are agricultural entrepreneurs in Barranquitas, were able to visit their land just yesterday and see the damage caused to their crops, completely turning their business upside down. I’m lucky that my family members are all safe, but the damage will still take years to repair.
To help with the relief and recovery in Puerto Rico and beyond, Google.org and Googlers are committing $1 million in donations to organizations that are providing critical resources to the affected regions. To support immediate humanitarian needs, we’re distributing funds to organizations including the Red Cross, World Food Program, and UNICEF. We’re also supporting NetHope, which provides Internet access in the wake of natural disasters around the world, because connectivity can be a critical link in providing basic needs like food, water and medical care. This month has taxed the resources of first responder agencies across the region, and we want to make sure nonprofits like NetHope have the resources they need to respond to Hurricane Maria. We’ve also had a small team of engineers volunteer in the wake of recent Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, to help restore connectivity by setting up hot-spots and assisting with other technical needs that local nonprofits and shelters may have. We’re working with NetHope to find ways that our technical volunteers can be most helpful in Puerto Rico as well.
Crisis Response and SOS Alerts
In times of crises, having access to timely safety information can be critical. Ahead of the storm, Google’s Crisis Response team launched SOS Alerts for Hurricane Maria. Although few people have connectivity in the storm’s wake, we’ve continued to update the alert with information on power outages, emergency information contacts, the damage to the Guajataca dam, and crisis maps in both English and Spanish. Those outside of the region can also find the latest news and information, as well as an easy way to donate to relief efforts, directly through Search.
As the 2017 hurricane season has pummeled the U.S. and the Caribbean, Google.org, Google employees and the public have collectively donated $7 million for relief efforts in the areas affected by Harvey, Irma and Maria. My thoughts are with everyone in Puerto Rico and other affected areas, and it gives me solace to know that my colleagues and company are doing everything they can to help.