[image-1]Days after Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico, robbing the U.S. territory of power and severing communication, Tanya Altagracia finally received word from her loved ones on the island. “It was heartbreaking,” says the Puerto Rico native and organizer with the Puerto Rico Cultural Society of South Carolina, who recalled the desperate Facebook message from her 21-year-old niece. Asked what help can be offered from here in South Carolina, Altagracia’s niece simply responded, “I don’t know. Water.”

“This is a 21-year-old asking for water. That was the first indication of how difficult things are there,” said Altagracia.

Nightly curfews have forbidden residents from venturing out into the cities devastated by the storm. According to Altagracia, many have yet to reconnect with their family members on the island. As the reports rolled in after the storm had passed, the true scope of the devastation on Puerto Rico began to become clearer.

Lacking power, the island’s wastewater and water facilities sat useless, save for select pumps operating by generators. On Monday, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that 60 percent of the island’s 3.4 million American citizens lacked access to drinking water.

“What Puerto Rico is experiencing after Hurricane Maria is an unprecedented disaster. The devastation is vast,” said Gov. Rossello is an official statement Monday, five days after Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane.

In response to the massive need of residents in Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Cultural Society of South Carolina is collecting supplies to send to the island. Recommended donations include baby formula, non-aerosol bug repellent, baby and adult diapers, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, feminine products, trash bags, bottled water, non-lithium batteries, and pet food.

Beginning Tues. Sept. 26 through Oct. 7, donations can be dropped off at the Goose Creek Rural Fire Department, Simply Fit in Summerville from 5-7 p.m., Deep River Church of God and Iglesia de Dios Nuevo Comienzo in North Charleston on Saturday 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Select Fitness at 7671 Northwoods Blvd. in North Charleston, Pollo Loko Peruvian Cuisine in North Charleston, and Power Zone at 497 La Mesa Road in Mt. Pleasant.

The First Lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Rossello, has also helped establish an initiative called United for Puerto Rico for the purpose of providing aid and support to those affected by Hurricane Irma and Maria. Online donations to United for Puerto Rico can be submitted at unidosporpuertorico.com/en.

“Our infrastructure and energy distribution systems suffered great damages. We are collaborating with the federal government in emergency response and have received a tremendous outpour of solidarity from people all over the nation,” Gov. Rossello said in Monday’s statement. “But make no mistake — this is a humanitarian disaster involving 3.4 million U.S. citizens. We need the full support of the U.S. government. People cannot forget we are U.S. citizens — and proud of it.”

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