On Visit to N.H., Bishops from Caribbean Islands Hit by Hurricanes: Don't Forget Us

Apr 4, 2018

 

Relief and Reconstruction in the Caribbean. A Catholic archbishop and bishop are visiting the state from Puerto Rico and the Virgin islands, a region hard hit by last September's hurricanes, to raise awareness about the suffering that continues there. Recovery has been slow, with thousands still lacking power and living in makeshift dwellings.  The bishops are here at the invitation of Bishop Peter A. Libasci, of Manchester, for an initiative called Through the Storm: Helping Our Brothers and Sisters in the Caribbean. For more information on the event, visit here

GUESTS: 

  • Bishop Herbert A. Bevard, of St. Thomas. 
  • Bishop Peter A. Libasci, of Diocese of Manchester, which covers all of N.H.
  • Archbishop Roberto Octavio Gonzalez Nieves, of San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

Interview Highlights

What was it like when Hurricane Irma hit St. Thomas?  

Bishop Herbert A. Bevard: I'll never forget the experience -- the noise, the sounds, the vibrations of things hitting the outside of the house was truly terrifying. And it went on for hours and hours. Sometimes people ask me what it was like and I describe it as lying down between the rails of a railroad track with freight trains going over the top of you for eight or nine hours in a row. Not knowing what was happening above, if the house was standing. not knowing what was happening to your people. How many of them were hurt.  

What is it like there now, six months after the storm?

 Bevard: Well in many ways it's much improved thanks to the generosity of so many people and so many organizations that have come to our aid. But half the island still has blue tarps as roofs for the houses. A lot of people lost their roofs totally or had serious damage to their roofs.  Once water gets into a building it's followed very quickly by black mold and that is very dangerous.  

 What is it like now in Puerto Rico, six months after the storm?

  Bishop Octavio Gonzalez:  Many many homes still have the tarps, and especially in the mountain areas, there are still a good number of roads that are blocked that they're just impassable. A number of bridges collapsed.  It will take months maybe a couple years to repair some of those bridges. A number of hospitals have closed.  This week I believe our government will be announcing the closure of 300 schools. We've had an exodus of approximately 800,000 from the island just to the state of Florida. The governor of Florida was in Puerto Rico a few weeks ago and a few weeks ago he told me that the number was at about 600,000 but it was every day increasing.  

Hurricane Coverage -- Before, During, and the Aftermath.

Hurricane Maria, September 2017
Credit Antti Lipponen via wikimedia

Dire warnings as  Hurricane Maria approached.  

What happened in Puerto Rico: A timeline of the path of Hurricane Maria.

Hurricane Irma devastated the U.S. Virgin Islands, with long-lasting damage

Recovery in the Virgin Islands leaves some behind

Puerto Rico looks to Washington, D.C. for aid; prior to the hurricane, Archbishop Gonzalez sought help from Congress for the island's severe financial crisis.  

As Puerto Rico struggled to rebound, many left the island for Florida and other states. 

Read extensive coverage by Vox of Puerto Rico's struggle following Hurricane Maria.