As you know by now, Puerto Rico was recently battered by Hurricane Maria — in particular, the island of Vieques bore the brunt of the Category 5 hurricane. In some of the first photos that have come out since the hurricane made landfall a few days ago, you’ll see images giving partial-view into the wreckage and destruction that the storm caused to the island community.
My friend who has a house on the island and lives there for a part of the year, sent me some heart-breaking images of the damage and wreckage left in the violent storm’s wake. Take a look.
Resources to Check If Someone in Vieques is Safe?
(UPDATE: Click here to go to a separate post providing several more resources to locating loved ones in Vieques)
There are a few different options we’re aware of If you’re looking for an update on a loved one.
You may be able to find some information on them at https://help.stormcarib.com. As many have already done, you can also comment at the bottom of this post asking whether a particular person is safe.
You can also try to connect with those on the island via the Facebook page called Vieques Peeps. It’s a private group that you can request to join as long as you have a Facebook profile. Once you’re accepted, you can post your questions on the group’s page and hopefully connect with someone that might have news on your loved one.
Another option is this publicly-shared Google Sheet called the “Vieques Safe List” that has the first and last names of those that have been confirmed safe.
We can’t confirm the authenticity of any of the above resources, we just want to help those worried about their loved ones as much as possible.
As you can see from the image below, the popular Esperanza restaurant Bananas, was destroyed by Maria.
Kelly and Kurt Soukup are the owners of the beachfront restaurant and their family hasn’t heard from them since the storm. If you know of their whereabouts, please click here and reply to this comment from Kurt’s mother to update her on the latest.
In some areas of the island, the Category 5 hurricane swept through with 150-mile winds. Some of these first images from Vieques show significant damage to houses and the island’s infrastructure after Maria moved on. Homes that were built with wood have completely collapsed, power lines are down, and bare trees folded in half from the power of the winds.
The hurricane has easily caused thousands if not millions of dollars of damage to the small island community. From the looks of these photos, it doesn’t look like the intense storm spared very many on the island.
While the people of Puerto Rico scramble to recover from this disaster, the President of the United States made the terrible decision to tweet about the about island’s “massive debt” and how the island already owes billions “to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.” Furthermore, Trump downplayed the damage by saying how the island was “already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt” before the hurricane hit. His tweets amount to a giant shrug of the shoulders and a “What am I supposed to do?”
Vieques was once a U.S. Navy base and firing range. Now, much of the island is preserved as the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge home to approximately 9,000 people. Huffington Post reports that the island is devastated:
The island’s electrical grid is severely damaged… that virtually all the trees on the south side of Vieques, facing St. Croix, have been stripped bare… the older wooden homes and structures have been largely destroyed. The majestic herds of semi-wild horses that roam the island, have been devastated, as many animals died in the storm.
At the beach town of Esperanza, on the south side of Vieques, the storm hit with winds over 175 mph. The town was heavily damaged, and a 200-yard stretch to the east, connecting Esperanza to the main road has vanished, replaced by sand dunes. Other roads were being cleared.
From the International Business Times:
A video posted by news outlet WAPA-TV showed the devastation left by the hurricane. Downed trees and debris littered the island as rough surf continued to pummel the coast even after the worst of the storm passed through. Power lines whipped in the wind as residents began to survey what was left of their surroundings. Many businesses “no longer existed”’ in the wake of the hurricane, WAPA reported, noting that many residents were “crying in dismay” after they saw the damage.
How to Help Vieques
Help has been slow to arrive to the tiny island as the main island (of Puerto Rico) was also hit by the hurricane, their focus is on their own efforts and recovery. So there’s not a surplus of supplies coming from the main island to the virtually-isolated Vieques. However, that hasn’t stopped some from trying. Reports have mentioned that the local airport (Airlink) is running, but not at full capacity. There’s also reports that help may be coming directly to Vieques from the U.S. mainland.
“The people of Vieques are in great need and they are becoming desperate. Food and water scarcity is a major issue, and there are reports of looting and violence, which is only expected to get worse. Fuel is unavailable and drastically hampering the ability to mount search and rescue operations in the barrios, where major damage occurred. People are not able to easily get off the island, and getting relief access to the island is being hampered by difficulties with the state of mainland Puerto Rico. A terrible situation is quickly turning catastrophic, as each day passes and relief cannot be provided to the island.” — a statement from ViequesLove, an organization aiming to help the island.
If you’re interested in helping out, you can donate to Vieques recovery effort here.
My friend who sent these photos owns a home in Vieques. When were there just a few months ago in May, to celebrate his 40th birthday, he gave us a tour of his neighborhood. We had the pleasure of meeting a handful of his neighbors and visit their homes. It’s sad to think that some or all of their homes were now completely ravaged by the storm.
Considered a Caribbean island, Vieques is a couple hours away from the capital city of San Juan and is located on Puerto Rico’s eastern coast. After the hurricane, no one is sure what happened to the island’s popular attraction, the Bioluminescent Bay (“Mosquito Bay”), not to mention the damage to the multiple beaches. There’s been no reported deaths in Vieques, but how many of the wild horses (and wild dogs) remain?
Please read the comments below for more Vieques information and updates from our readers.