ISABELA, PUERTO RICO (WBRE/WYOU) — All eyes are on Florida as Hurricane Ian wreaks havoc. But in Puerto Rico, hundreds of thousands are still living without electricity more than a week after Hurricane Fiona hit the island.
Eyewitness News first told you on Saturday about a local man getting ready to head to Puerto Rico and help with much-needed relief efforts.
On Thursday, day five of his journey, Eyewitness News caught up with him on Facetime to hear how it’s going.
“Well, it’s been kinda non-stop,” said Lieutenant Ismael Ortiz, a corps officer with Salvation Army Wilkes-Barre Citadel.
Salvation Army Wilkes-Barre Citadel Lieutenant Ismael Ortiz is on the ground in Isabela, Puerto Rico.
From the air, it’s easy to see the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Fiona that submerged communities, knocked out power, and killed at least 16 people.
“It’s a tough situation to see the area so devastated and people come up to you needing help. They see the shield, they know what the salvation army is and what we’re about,” Lt. Ortiz explained.
Last weekend, Eyewitness News met Ortiz in Wilkes-Barre as he was busy packing disaster relief kits containing all the tools needed to clean up the mess left behind by Fiona in Puerto Rico.
“They’re just being put to use out here, there’s mud and stuff everywhere,” Lt. Ortiz added.
He was deployed on Sunday with volunteers from the Salvation Army Pennsylvania/Delaware Division Emergency Disaster Team.
“We were shipped out to different areas of the island, especially most remote areas where we’re handing out food,” Lt. Ortiz continued.
Ortiz cooks hot meals for thousands of people each day and helps translate when needed. Perhaps the most meaningful effort, according to Ortiz, is one that takes little to no effort at all.
“They’re emotionally broken and that’s when we come alongside them and say hey listen, can I pray for you, there’s hope, you will stand once again, you will get that stuff back. You came through the storm with your life, some people didn’t so let’s be grateful and think about the future,” Lt. Ortiz explained.
Ortiz is prepared to stay for at least two weeks in Puerto Rico. He told Eyewitness News the Salvation Army is organizing efforts to help people in Florida after Hurricane Ian passes through.