Episcopal Relief & Development responds to urgent needs in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma

Episcopal Relief & Development is helping Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Irma. Photo: Episcopal Relief & Development

[Episcopal Relief & Development] Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting emergency relief efforts in Culebra and Vieques, two islands in Puerto Rico devastated by Hurricane Irma. In partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Puerto Rico, the organization is providing approximately 600 people with temporary housing, medical care, food and meal delivery, clothing, home repairs, water and first aid supplies.

“These islands are among the most highly impacted by Hurricane Irma,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s senior vice president of programs. “We’re very concerned about the most vulnerable people, especially the older population and families with small children.”

The island of Puerto Rico avoided a direct hit from Irma. However, thousands are still without power, and this may continue in the weeks and months ahead, particularly in more remote areas. Culebra and Vieques, located off the east coast of Puerto Rico, were the hardest hit; the governor of Puerto Rico has declared both islands as disaster areas. Roughly 30 to 35 homes were badly damaged and destroyed in Culebra, which has an estimated population of 1,800. Many families live in wooden or partially wooden homes, which left them most vulnerable to the powerful winds and rains of the storm. Power systems, as well as cell and internet services, are down. Most of the population remains without running water and with limited food supplies.

Throughout the Caribbean and Florida, millions are also without power, with flooded streets and homes, roads and farmland destroyed. Some areas of Georgia remain without power. In Florida, residents are slowly returning to their homes after mandatory evacuation orders were lifted in many areas. Several Irma-impacted Episcopal dioceses are contacting clergy and members through AlertMedia, a text-based platform, and through telephone calls.

Rivers continue to rise in some parts of Florida which means that assessments have been postponed until the affected dioceses throughout the state are out of danger. Church partners are monitoring the situation locally.

“Right now, dioceses in the impacted areas are assessing as best they can safely,” said Katie Mears, director of the U.S. Disaster Program. “Many of the leaders in the most impacted communities evacuated to other states, which means that assessments will take time as bridges open and they can travel back home. We continue to be in touch with all U.S. dioceses in Irma’s path, convening a daily call with prayer and information sharing between dioceses. Some churches are sheltering and others have already begun feeding ministries.”

In Haiti, extensive damage to roads, homes and agriculture threatens the island’s economy as damage is being assessed there as well as in the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands. So far, at least 68 deaths have been reported in the Caribbean and Florida.

 “We are just in the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season, and the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey has been staggering,” noted Nelson. “The consequences of changing climates are something we shouldn’t underestimate, and this causes us to look at future storms in much different ways with respect to disaster preparedness, relief and recovery.”

 Contributions to Episcopal Relief & Development’s Hurricane Relief Fund will help support church and other local partners as they provide critical emergency assistance to those most in need in the weeks and months ahead. 

For the most recent bulletin inserts and other Hurricane Irma resources, visit episcopalrelief.org/irma.


  1. Donald Heacock says:

    I believe the climate is changing. Metrologist do notconnect any event with this change. We are on the edge of change such as the electricit car will havea real effect. I have heard preacher talk about the end of the world. Al Gore is just preacher with with out God

    • Debbie McNally says:

      Al Gore doesn’t practice what he preaches. Climate has been changing since God created it,hence: ice ages alternate w/warming.Michael Mann’s conspiracy left out LOTS,i.e., Medieval Warming Period and little Ice Age. Please read up.Its a political ploy to take money from advanced nations to REDISTRIBUTE to undeveloped countries TO KEEP THEM FROM DEVELOPING THEIR OWN ENERGY.

  2. The unfortunate tragedy of Puerto Rico provoked by the devastating hurricane, provides me the blessed opportunity to share my feelings about the Episcopal Church immense loving capacity to respond with assistance and succor to places, people, agencies, church, etc. with authentic Christian sensitivity almost immediately and with total absence of discrimination of any kind.
    I was the only Episcopal Priest in Managua on December 23rd 1972, when a horrible earthquake destroyed the city and left us with more than 11.000 dead.
    And there was the Episcopal Church making its presence with assistance, help, money, food and human assistance which help us to witness the love of God and a Church that cared for the suffering. May God bless the Church leaders, who continue to be the Good Samaritan in its own time. As for me I will always be profoundly thankful.
    The Rev.Dr. William Muniz.,Ph.D, M.A, M.Div. (Archdiocese of Miami)

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