Picking up the Pieces: Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria
Words and film photography by P. Thien Nguyen
Puerto Rico is a Caribbean Island and a U.S. Territory. It is beautiful and provides landscapes such as mountains, waterfalls, beaches and rain forests; making it perfect for holidays. However, this changed drastically when Hurricane Maria hit the island on 20 September 2017.
With winds of 155 mph. Maria was one of the most powerful storms to ever hit the island. After Maria made landfall, the island was left in ruins, chaos, and its inhabitants in dire need of immediate medical attention and clean water. The storm knocked down major highway signs, electrical and communication poles, and destroyed food and clean water sources.
I’m a film photographer living in Washington, D.C., but I’m also a service member and healthcare professional. About a month after Hurricane Maria hit, I deployed to provide disaster relief in the form of healthcare logistics. Even after massive, on going, successful recovery efforts, what I saw when I got there was completely disheartening. I knew the storm was powerful, but the extent of its damage was more than I imagined.
People were still without electricity, without clean water and the hospitals were not up and running. Power and communication lines were down, trees that fell on homes have not been removed, and roofs were missing. The roads throughout the island were mostly cleared, but some mountain passages were not accessible. This was detrimental because the mountain communities needed the most help. I spent my time delivering water, medical supplies, and drugs to medical centers positioned throughout the entire island and breaking down medical tents that were being transferred to the Army Reserve or Puerto Rico's Department of Health.
Over the course of a month, I was able to compile a set of images depicting the conditions of the island and relief efforts. I think it's easy to forget about people when media coverage ends. Therefore, the more it's publicized, the more people will remember and hopefully continue to offer support.