(NEW YORK) — Thanksgiving marks the 64th day since Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, leaving behind a trail of at least 50 deaths, thousands of displaced residents and a severely damaged electrical grid that still is in a dire state.
The office of Governor Ricardo Rossello on Thursday released a new batch of figures which illustrate that the U.S. commonwealth is still reeling from the strongest storm to hit the island in 80 years:
- 51 percent of the electrical grid is generating power; there is no figure on how many people have power
- 89.74 percent of residents have access to drinking water
- 1,385 people remain in 46 shelters
- 75.5 percent of telecommunications have been restored
Taking into consideration the impact the aforementioned figures have on daily life, many residents are not in a celebratory mood, even though the holiday season has kicked off.
Jose Morales, a 74-year-old legally blind resident of Yabucoa, told CNN, “This year there will be no Christmas. Those who can, will enjoy the holidays. We can’t. We’ll be here. Living in fear, living in danger.”
Morales’ 67-year-old sister, Paula Morales, has no electricity. She echoed her brother’s sentiment, adding, “I can’t think about the holidays right now. I have too many worries.”
Despite the gloomy — albeit improved — state of affairs, Thanksgiving has inspired many instances of goodwill on the island.
Celebrity chef Jose Andres, for example, prepared 40,000 Thanksgiving meals for Puerto Ricans on Thursday, which the Michelin-starred culinary wizard documented on Twitter. He posted videos of photos of himself and his staff — who began their day at 4 a.m. — preparing whole turkeys, turkey breasts, corn, potatoes and cranberries.
According to Andres, he and his staff cooked 12,000 turkey breasts and 100 whole turkeys.
Andres’ #ChefsForPuertoRico initiative is part of his non-profit organization, World Central Kitchen, which has prepared more than 2.3 million for Puerto Ricans since Maria hammered the island. They are delivering meals across Puerto Rico.
“I am thankful to our #ChefsForPuertoRico team who has cooked for the wonderful Punta Santiago community for the past 50 days,” Andres tweeted, along with a pair of photos of him serving food to residents. “Was a pleasure to join you with my family to serve #Thanksgiving lunch!”
In Loiza, residents still don’t have electricity or water, but thanks to Andres, they had a hot meal. “Today in Loiza in the the Barrio Vieques, by the sea, locals still have no electricity or water. So hot thanksgiving meals were a necessity not just a celebration,” he tweeted.
And at Emergency Stop and Go community relief centers across Puerto Rico, Thanksgiving meals were served to locals on Wednesday and Thursday. Gov. Rossello visited a center in San Juan on Wednesday, and sat and ate a meal with residents. The Emergency Stop and Go centers are run in coordination with municipalities, community leaders, private companies and the Office of First Lady Beatriz Rossello.
Volunteers from La Fondita de Jesus, a non-profit organization that works with the homeless in Puerto Rico, also handed out Thanksgiving meals to homeless people in San Juan on Wednesday.
Also giving thanks in Puerto Rico are the hundreds of utility workers from New York State who were sent to the island to help restore power.
“I want to give my special thanks to the more than 350 New York utility workers who are spending their Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico helping to restore the power grid. Your hard work makes us proud,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted Thursday.
ConEd, a utility company serving New York City and Westchester County, produced a YouTube of its employees sending their Thanksgiving greetings to their family back in New York.
ConEd also tweeted a video of one of its logistical support employees, Leo Daly, surprising his Puerto Rican family on Thanksgiving.
In a Thanksgiving message, FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Mike Byrne said he was “humbled” by the dedication of FEMA workers in Puerto Rico.
“Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and be thankful for all that we have accomplished,” Byrne said in a statement. I’m humbled by the capacity and commitment to service of the team working with the people of Puerto Rico. Tomorrow we will give thanks, and then we’ll roll up our sleeves and get back to work.”
Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.