Caribbean islands still in need after Maria, officials say

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – About a month after Hurricane Maria made landfall in the Caribbean islands, officials say there’s still a lot of work to do to get things back to normal.

The Dayton Area chapter of the American Red Cross has deployed more than two dozen volunteers to help with relief efforts following hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, as well as the California wildfires, according to organization leaders.

“There were a lot of EMS runs needed, and since cell phones weren’t working, there was no way to get a hold of the EMS,” said Jim Lewis, who returned home to the Miami Valley earlier this week from the U.S. Virgin Islands.

After retiring from a 30-year career in information technology, he used his career skills the past three weeks to help restore communications on the islands of St. Croix and St. Thomas. He helped set up cell phones, computers and radios.

“The cell phones were pretty well knocked out when we got there, so we were setting up radios in vehicles and in the shelters so that they could communicate back and forth for safety,” Lewis said.

Most people on St. Croix and St. Thomas still don’t have power, Lewis said. He and his team also helped distribute food, water and toiletries across the islands, he added.

“We were told not to drink the water because it tested positive for E. coli, so even if you washed your hands, you were to use bottled water,” Lewis said.

Volunteers are moving as quickly as they can to make progress, Lewis said, but it’s going to be a while until things are back to normal.

Although the islands need all the help they can get, he added, the people are resilient.

“One lady – her house, all her rooms except for one were leaking, but she felt blessed that she had the one room she could go into and be dry,” Lewis said.

The Red Cross is still looking for volunteers and donations for hurricane relief. To help, click here.

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