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The Island Next Door

A team of Connecticut veterans and volunteers -- self-described as the Puerto Rican "water dogs" -- pumps water from a river in Salinas, Puerto Rico through a mobile filtration and purification system for residents there to drink.
Credit Ryan Caron King / WNPR

As Puerto Rico recovers from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, WNPR is committed to telling the stories of residents with ties to Connecticut. We've sent a reporting team - news director Jeff Cohen, and digital reporter Ryan Caron King - to the island to meet people who are delivering aid and reconnecting with loved ones.  Listen for reports on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Where We Live and NEXT.

If you have loved ones in Puerto Rico and want to share your story, please email us at news@wnpr.org. You can also join a Facebook group WNPR in Puerto Rico After Maria. 

Coverage of Hurricane Maria from WNPR, the New England News Collaborative, and NPR:

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

A return home from a distant journey is often comforting. For members of the Puerto Rican community in Connecticut the return to the island for them after Hurricane Maria is far different from their previous trips.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

At least 600 students from hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico have now registered in Connecticut schools. 

It's a muggy early afternoon in Morovis, a mountain community about 40 miles from San Juan. Army Reserve soldiers led by Captain Angel Morales are hard at work handing out cases of water and ready-to-eat meals from a flatbed truck. Hundreds of people line up in the parking lot of the Jaime Collazo High School.

Seven weeks ago, Hurricane Maria roared through the center of Puerto Rico. Winds battered the palm leaves and rain poured over the houses in the town of Barrancas.

The storm brought terror to German Santini, who was inside his home. Santini emerged the next day to see a town that looked like it had been hit by airstrikes.

“You get the urge to cry,” he said. “You don’t feel like doing anything, seeing everything destroyed. Puerto Rico is going to take a long time to recover from this.”

Central Connecticut State University.

Carolina Riollano flew into Florida on a humanitarian plane that was packed with people. Most of them were elderly or ill. But Riollano’s reason for leaving her home was different. She came here to learn.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Angel Rodriguez stood on the porch of his apartment overlooking the bay of San Juan. In the distance, a military helicopter was lifting off from an airstrip near the city’s convention center where the hurricane relief effort was being staged.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Pedro Bermudez, a Hartford school teacher, retired many years ago to Puerto Rico. He planned to live there for good with his wife Jeanette Hernandez.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

It’s 7:00 am, and Joemar Class is dressed in his new Bulkeley High School uniform. His older brother William already finished school in Puerto Rico, so he’s still asleep in the bedroom the two boys share with their father.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

We drove to Caguas, a city south of San Juan, four weeks after Hurricane Maria hit. Our guide was Luis Cotto -- a former Hartford city councilman now living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We traveled to Puerto Rico to tell stories; he traveled to deliver thousands of dollars in inflatable solar lights and water filters to people who need them, including members of his family.

Damaged houses in Salinas, Puerto Rico.
Ryan Caron King / WNPR

When Serafin Mendez heard that thousands of students from the University of Puerto Rico wouldn't be able to continue their education because of hurricane-related damage to the campus, he decided to do something.

Frankie Graziano / WNPR

Nelson Robles, 56, is the maintenance man at Primera Iglesia Bautista Emanuel church in downtown Bridgeport. He’s also a percussionist during mass. Every morning, he walks to the corner of his church – just off the altar to the right – and prays. He said that while he’s down on his knees looking for guidance, he feels God.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Blanca Ortiz-Torres was sitting in a Puerto Rican oasis. She was at a working bakery in the tiny mountain town of Maricao that had both a generator and a cistern and, as a result, could serve cold drinks, hot coffee, fresh pastries, and pizza.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will be able to pay in-state tuition rates to attend a state college.

Veronica Montalvo fills up a water jug for a boy in Salinas, Puerto Rico.
Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20, and a month later, clean water continues to be hard to come by for some residents -- particularly those in more rural parts of the island.

Nearly a month after Hurricane Maria swept through Puerto Rico, almost 80 percent of the territory is still without power. While nobody expected a quick restoration of Puerto Rico's badly outdated power grid, officials have estimated that it could take at least six months.

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