Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Trying to Help from 2,000 Miles Those with Loved Ones in Puerto Rico Suffer Anguish of Not Knowing How They Are Faring

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Trying to Help from 2,000 Miles Those with Loved Ones in Puerto Rico Suffer Anguish of Not Knowing How They Are Faring

Article excerpt

As the first rain drops of Hurricane Maria fell on Puerto Rico last Tuesday, Chrystal Alexander's daughters were playing a board game.

Her mother, with whom the girls were staying for the summer, sent Chrystal a photo at 8:15 p.m. that day.

The girls were playing Life, and in the coming days, Ms. Alexander would find her own life tumble into a mess of anxiety, impatience and broken cell phone signals. She is one of many Pittsburgh residents nearly 2,000 miles away from family - and away from the place that was their home and now has been ravaged by a powerful hurricane and in the midst of a potential humanitarian disaster.

"I've been watching videos, of dams breaking, of homes flooding," Ms. Alexander said. "I don't really know if my kids have a dry place to sleep or enough food or enough electricity or water. I don't know where they are exactly."

For those with loved ones in Puerto Rico, the last week has been a struggle to locate family members on an island with limited communication with the outside world. Some waited several days before receiving a single text. Others, like Ms. Alexander, still can't pinpoint their exact locations.

Most of Yolanda Rovira-Pereira's family stayed in Puerto Rico after she moved to the U.S. about 13 years ago for college. She said she considers herself lucky that she was able to locate her family after the hurricane - the last of which happened after a friend of a friend found her cousin and relayed the message she was safe.

But it was difficult. The morning after the hurricane hit, she lost communication with everyone but her mother, who texted her using the messaging application WhatsApp.

"It was great to know from her, but it was also really harrowing to get a minute-to-minute account of what was happening," said Ms. Rovira-Pereira, 31, of Crafton. "As the winds were picking up, she kept saying she had never in her life heard sounds like that, or saw the atmosphere change [that way]. …

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