The Island Next Door | Connecticut Public Radio
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The Island Next Door

A team of Connecticut veterans and volunteers -- self-described as the Puerto Rican "water dogs" -- pumps water from a river in Salinas, Puerto Rico through a mobile filtration and purification system for residents there to drink.
Credit Ryan Caron King / WNPR

It’s been more than six months since Hurricane Maria tore through the island of Puerto Rico — taking out power lines, destroying homes, disrupting industries, raking the island’s forests, and displacing families.

Connecticut Public Radio’s reporters have covered the aftermath of the storm both from the mainland and from the island’s streets and mountains.  We’ve told stories about families still trying to provide the basics, college students reimagining their futures, schools adapting to hundreds of new students, and people just hoping to furnish their new, but empty, apartments.

Our reporters and editors decided to cover Hurricane Maria because — with nearly 300,000 state residents who claim island roots — it’s a local story. The island is an ocean away from our newsroom, but it might as well be one town over. Connecticut Public Radio is committed to telling these stories of people touched by the storm.

  

If you have loved ones in Puerto Rico and want to share your story, please email us at news@wnpr.org. You can also join a Facebook group WNPR in Puerto Rico After Maria. 

Coverage of Hurricane Maria from WNPR, the New England News Collaborative, and NPR:

earthquake puerto rico
Carlos Giusti / Associated Press

Connecticut has released more funding to help evacuees from Puerto Rico -- but the state isn’t recommending that people call 211 to connect with the aid.

The state is making $75,000 available to help evacuees with housing costs. It comes after a recent string of earthquakes on the island that led to an uptick in people coming to Connecticut.

Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

The state is setting aside money for Puerto Ricans arriving in Connecticut after being displaced from the island by natural disasters.

Carlos Giusti / AP Photo

The impact of the recent earthquakes in Puerto Rico is now being felt in Connecticut -- at least when it comes to helping those who had to leave the island.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Connecticut’s Department of Education said it’s ready to help school districts take in Puerto Rican students evacuated from the island because of recent earthquakes.

Carlos Giusti / AP Photo

President Donald Trump has signed an emergency declaration so that Puerto Rico can receive federal help after a series of earthquakes devastated parts of the island. That gives the U.S. government’s Federal Emergency Management Agency the OK to move onto the island and coordinate a public assistance effort.

Steven Senne / Associated Press

Two years after Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, the response to the crisis on the U.S. mainland is only now coming into focus. 

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

U.S. congressional representatives marked the upcoming two-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria by observing a day of action for Puerto Rico Wednesday in Washington D.C.

National Hurricane Center / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

As another major storm approaches Puerto Rico, the people on the island are still thinking of when Hurricane Maria made landfall there in 2017.

Puerto Rican evacuee Rita Rivera addressed reporters inside the Catholic Charities, Institute For The Hispanic Family in Hartford Tuesday July 30, 2019 about problems evacuees face nearly two years after Hurricane Maria leveled Puerto Rico.
Jade Allen / Connecticut Public Radio

Money that almost went back to the state is now in the hands of survivors of Hurricane Maria.

Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo / Associated Press

After more than a week of mass protests, Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rosselló says he will step down. This hour, we ask: what happens next?

We hear the latest from on the ground in Puerto Rico, and talk with Connecticut residents with ties to the island. 

Did you participate in the #RickyRenuncia protests?

Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

For almost two weeks now, Puerto Ricans have taken to the streets of San Juan to call for the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rossello. He was already a controversial figure in the wake of Hurricane Maria, but a recent leak of private messages sent between members of his administration has sparked a massive response that’s now reaching far beyond the island.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Puerto Ricans are vowing to continue their protests of the island’s leadership until one major demand is met.

Manuel Sastre can't even believe what's about to happen. He's hot, he's covered in sweat, and he's about to walk out of this Hartford, Conn., liquor store with two six packs of ice cold Medalla Light. It's been way too long.

"Eighteen years," Sastre tells me. "I haven't been in Puerto Rico in 18 years."

But now?

Sastre says it's like "I'm back on my island."

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

The United States Senate has passed legislation that would provide Puerto Rico with more disaster relief money. But its ultimate passage has been delayed.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Hurricane evacuees from Puerto Rico have less than three months to get help in a key area of need.

Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

Federal legislators are fighting over additional disaster aid for Puerto Rico.

Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

Connecticut lawmakers want Congress to send more disaster relief dollars to Puerto Rico.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

A new federal report says Connecticut experienced one of the largest year-to-year percentage increases in homelessness. But state officials and advocates say Hurricane Maria had a major impact on those numbers.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Researchers in Puerto Rico say hurricanes Irma and María made long-lasting and ongoing impacts to forest and coastal ecosystems.

The Federico Mathew Baez in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico closed over a year ago.  Now, community members are working to turn it into a community center.
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

This used to be Gamaliel Laboy Andino’s school. But he doesn’t go here anymore. No one does -- not since the government closed it more than a year ago. It saddened him, he said, because there are students who now have to go to school far away.

“It makes me sad, because there are students who don’t have anywhere to go,” he said.

The vigil took place on McLevy Green in Bridgeport and was held in memory of those that died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria -- one year to the day that the storm hit Puerto Rico.
Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

A vigil was held in Bridgeport Thursday — one year after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.

The event was a small, solemn gathering held in memory of those who died.

As Hurricane Maria bore down on Puerto Rico, Jason Ortiz, president of the Connecticut Puerto Rican Agenda was already working on relief efforts.
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Vigils will be held Thursday in Hartford and Bridgeport to mark one year since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico.

Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

Rallies are scheduled Thursday in Bridgeport and Hartford to commemorate the one year mark since Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico. But, the Hartford event is facing a bit of an administrative obstacle.

When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September 2017, chef José Andrés and the groups he founded, World Central Kitchen and Chefs for Puerto Rico, sprung into action.

"We began serving hospitals, because the doctors and the nurses — nobody was feeding them," Andrés says of the initial effort.

But then calls started pouring in from places that were hours away from San Juan. Andrés says the message was clear: "The island is hungry. With one restaurant alone, we have not enough."

Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

The Puerto Rican government has acknowledged that nearly 3,000 people died after Hurricane Maria hit the island last year. At first, it said that only 64 people perished as a result of the storm.

Updated at 9:25 p.m. ET

Puerto Rico's governor updated the island's official death toll for victims of Hurricane Maria on Tuesday, hours after independent researchers from George Washington University released a study estimating the hurricane caused 2,975 deaths in the six months following the storm.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Last fall, 2,281 new students poured into Connecticut from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Sixty-five percent of them went to five of the state's largest cities -- the ones that were already dealing with fiscal crises.

At least 1,800 displaced students enrolled in Connecticut's public schools, including about 40 new schoolchildren at the Maria Sanchez School in Hartford.
Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

School districts in Connecticut that took in evacuees in the wake of Hurricane Maria will receive $10.6 million in federal aid from the United States Department of Education. The money is the long-awaited funding that will be used to help schools that took in students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Update: The Puerto Rican government acknowledged in a preliminary draft recovery plan submitted to Congress that it is likely more than 1,400 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Another study is out that places the death toll related to Hurricane Maria much higher than the estimate originally put out by the Puerto Rican government.

Jose Jimenez-Tirado

When Hurricane Maria barreled into Puerto Rico last year, it swept away homes, businesses, and jobs. Not only did it leave a catastrophic environmental mess, but Maria also blew away any remaining cover for the island’s dire fiscal crisis. That’s affecting the basics of life like power and education, but it goes further. Shifting financial priorities are also affecting the arts.

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