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Hurricane aftermath: Here’s how you can help Puerto Rico

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Clark Howard Staff, Clark.com

Days after Hurricanes Irma and Maria slammed into the island nation, Puerto Rico, an American territory made up of 3.4 million people, is reeling and facing a growing humanitarian crisis.

Irma initially knocked out electricity to 1.5 million people in early September before power companies restored much of it. But Maria, which hit the nation on Wednesday with winds up to 150 mph, thrashed the country’s power grid, leaving all of the U.S. territory in the dark. Now officials there are preparing for the imminent collapse of an earthen dam that could endanger 70,000 people.

“The risk of failure of the Guajataca Dam continued,” the National Weather Service said Monday, “which would potentially cause life-threatening flash flooding downstream on Rio Guajataca. … Stay away or be swept away,” the weather service said in unusually frank terms.

Stressing that the island country is American, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told U.S. media this weekend that he is concerned that Washington is not paying close enough attention to the plight of Puerto Ricans and warns that they need more assistance.

“We still need some more help. This is clearly a critical disaster in Puerto Rico,” he told the Washington Post Sunday night from San Juan. “It can’t be minimized and we can’t start overlooking us now that the storm passed, because the danger lurks.”

With the death toll at 10 and expected to rise significantly in the aftermath of the Category 4 storm, Puerto Ricans are in dire need.

Here are some ways you can help Puerto Rico:

The Red Cross

The Red Cross says that it has been on the ground in Puerto Rico before Maria made landfall and it has organized a multi-island relief effort. The organization is in the process of deploying water, rice, beans, ready-to-eat meals, cleanup kits, home repair kits, tarps, trash bags, insect repellent, hand sanitizer, work gloves and more to people in need. Given that cellphone communication is 95% shut down, relief efforts continue to be difficult, the group said. Donate to Red Cross disaster relief here.

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is collecting food and other items for those affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. “Whether its food, drinks, shelter or cleaning supplies, The Salvation Army is ready to provide practical assistance. We’re also always ready with a shoulder to cry on – to give a hug or words of hope – to pray with you and for everyone you love,” the organization says on its website. Donate to the Salvation Army here.

United For Puerto Rico

The first lady of Puerto Rico has joined forces with some behemoths of American industry — Coca-Cola, Walmart, Burger King, etc. — to bring relief efforts to the storm-stricken island. You can donate here.

Students With Puerto Rico

Students from around the United States with ties to Puerto Rico have started a GoFundMe campaign to help relief efforts in the wake of Maria. Proceeds from the page will go to United For Puerto Rico, the first lady’s initiative mentioned above. Give to Students With Puerto Rico.

On Sunday, FEMA said that it had deployed first responders to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to partner with local officials on the ground.

“To aid in life sustaining missions, six FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) task forces are deployed to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and are working in tandem with numerous federal partners to rescue and render aid to distressed survivors in the region,” the agency said in a news release.”Additional FEMA US&R task forces are arriving today to expand operations, as areas become accessible.”

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