Nature has once again unleashed its fury in the Caribbean, devastating the Abacos Islands in the Bahamas and forcing its total evacuation.
And once again, Puerto Ricans found themselves driven to action, to help our brothers at this critical moment.
This is a historic moment. Never before has this archipelago - located just 283 miles from Florida - been hit with such fury by a cyclone. A tourist paradise has turned into an uninhabitable place in a matter of hours. Although there are no estimates on the total damage yet, the death toll stands at more than 40, more than 5,500 have been missing since the storm and losses could reach billions.
Despair, frustration and absolute uncertainty about the immediate future have been haunting the hundreds and perhaps thousands of refugees who have lost everything.
One of our best qualities – our spirit of generosity that leads to solidarity - activated immediately before such a situation. Humanitarian aid did not take long, and a plane carrying 6,000 pounds of basic supplies landed Saturday at the airport in the Bahamas capital that, fortunately, was able to continue operating, and several additional flights from San Juan have been scheduled.
In this way, Puerto Rico takes the lead in the urgent task of helping its neighbors, those who, in other circumstances, would offer their fraternal hand to us in our time of need. The Caribbean is one region, no matter how many differences may separate us. We are united by deep historical, cultural and climatic roots - we all live under the potential threat of a hurricane - and we also respond to them in these emergencies.
Since we all experienced these emergencies first hand here, Puerto Rico delivered supplies including not only food, water, and fuel, but also power generators, batteries, saws, tarps, and flashlights. Irma and María taught us that these products are really necessary in these situations. There is no reason not to share our knowledge, which may be useful to others and shows our proven post-hurricane resilience.
We also have a long history of helping our neighbors when a natural disaster, be it a hurricane or an earthquake, strikes them. We are not rich, but we know how to give what we have. We also count on the organizational capacity we have developed.
It is also remarkable that these efforts have spontaneously brought together diverse entities: individuals, private companies, professional associations, non-profit organizations, and religious groups, among others, all united in a single goal: contributing to the recovery of the Bahamas and with those who were able to weather the storm and who lost everything.
Climate change is no longer a future threat, but a concrete reality that is knocking our door down. As global warming continues, ocean temperatures will more often become a breeding ground for powerful hurricanes.
Solidarity and conscience stand out among the qualities we will need to properly respond to this new scenario. We should lend our helping hand, here and abroad, whenever it is necessary. That is what we are doing today.