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Pittsburgh Family Desperately Hopes to Hear from Mom Stranded in Puerto Rico

 

Hurricane Maria’s devastation in Puerto Rico has Pittsburgh’s Maria Manautou closely monitoring the news in that region as well as the relief efforts underway on the island as she prays to be able to hear from her 75-year-old mother, Carmen Matos of Pittsburgh.

Maria says her mom left Pittsburgh on August 12th for Puerto Rico to visit family and after Hurricane Maria hit the island she has not been able to communicate with her since September 19th.

PUM catches up with Maria who is using her Facebook page to reach out to anyone who can possibly help connect her to her mom and family in Puerto Rico. 

 

9-20 / Hurricane made landfall near my hometown last night. Praying for mom, my family, and friends in Puerto Rico. Stay safe everyone! (Facebook post from Maria)

 

PUM: When was the last time you could talk to your mom?

Maria: I have not heard directly from her or from anyone who has talked directly to her. People say her part of town is ok, only some debris, so I hope that is true. There are tons of mixed information out there, people say they have water and food, others say they don't so that is the hard part.

9-24 / Still no word, but keeping things positive. Mom: look forward to seeing you back in Pittsburgh, hearing your stories of the hurricane, taking you to the casino and watching you play all your favorite iPad games with the kids!!! (Facbook post from Maria)

 

PUM: You haven't heard from your mom or relatives since Tuesday, what are you hearing from officials in that area?

Maria: The whole island was hit very hard. Most people have no electricity, water or access to communications due to the damage. In my family's southeast hometown, Guayama, thankfully there have been very few or no fatalities reported, but some people were relocated to shelters and some areas are still flooded. Phone numbers were provided for shelters but with thousands of people calling to check in on loved ones, it's hard to get through.

PUM: Are there any local groups helping in Pittsburgh with your search?

Maria: Not for my search that I know. But I am trying to partner with organizations so items can be collected and sent there. Trying to figure it out the logistics.

PUM: Tell us more about the relatives you are looking for and where they live?

Maria: I am trying to get in touch with my mother who was staying in Costa Azul in Guayama (pictured below). I have cousins, aunts, and other relatives in other areas of the town as well. 

(Pictured below, Maria's Mom, fondly known as Nellie)

 

 

PUM: Do you know specifically about any damage your mom or relatives may have encountered?

Maria: At this time, I have no details at all regarding their damages or needs, but I'm ready to assist any way I can as soon as I hear from them.

PUM: Did you grow up in Puerto Rico? Do you feel your family was prepared for this storm?

Maria: I was born and raised in Puerto Rico and came to Pittsburgh in 1996 to go to CMU. I think my family prepared for the hurricane the best they could. You just can't predict how hard any storm will hit. In this case, it made landfall near my hometown and no one knew just how devastating the aftermath of Hurricane Maria would be.

PUM: Have you reached out to any Pittsburgh organizations?

Maria: I am trying to connect with any local organizations that could help with logistics to send items to either New York or Philadelphia where big collections are being held. Also, I am providing links to organizations that people can contribute with monetary donations. This is by far the worst hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in decades. Anything I can do to help from here now and in the future, I will do so gladly, knowing it will help fellow Puerto Ricans in the island rebuild and enjoy their lives again. Having no communication with family is very hard, but I focus on remaining calm and thinking positive thoughts while waiting to hear from them. Years ago, it took a week to hear back after a hurricane, so I take it one day at a time. I know I will hear good news soon.

PUM: Have you heard from any family members?

Maria: One good news, a cousin from another area of Puerto Rico contacted me late last night, his family is doing good, he said he may be able to drive to check on her so that is good. He can't go right away since there is a shortage of fuel, but at least it's good to hear from someone. He said he knows nothing about his mom or brothers living in Puerto Rico, and he is there, so internal communication is still down in many areas.

PUM: What are some of your immediate concerns?

Maria: Well, there is concern that most of the aid is getting to the capital (San Juan) area and not being distributed to the rest of the island. So, my hope is that the aid is being distributed equally amongst all areas. Also, that they move fast, use other ports, helicopters, whatever is necessary to speed things up.

For now, Maria plans to continue to update her family and friends on her Facebook page as she reaches out to find more ways to reach her mom and help the people of Puerto Rico:

 

9-24 / To those who have asked, the scale of the devastation in PR is huge. Still today in most of the island of 3+ million people there is little access to electricity, water or phones. People who have safe access to roads and cars (not many) have driven to the few scattered areas that have reception to make calls. Some postal service may return tomorrow for the first time since Tuesday. 15K+ people are still in shelters with flooded homes back in their communities, some places are inaccessible due to debris and destroyed bridges. Since most other communication is not possible, people within the island are braving drives hoping they can reach and find out about the well-being of relatives living in farther areas. So, in perspective, outside of PR there are thousands of people like me who still haven't talked to or heard from their loved ones even after trying help lines, emails, social networks for help. Sadly, this is by far the worst hurricane disaster for Puerto Rico in decades, but with almost no fatalities which is great. Rescue and aid units are getting there, but the needs are so huge, it's going to take time. Yes, it's been hard to focus on cleaning, work and chores, even the kids. But we must remain positive that those in PR are safe and that it's only a matter of being patient until we finally receive that call. Thank you all for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers

So frustrated with all the contradictory info about the situation in PR: People are getting enough aid or going without drinking water; there's plenty of fuel, then it's almost all gone; there've been few deaths or maybe more than we thought. Jesus, who do we believe? Don't want to stop looking for news, but this is incredibly frustrating!   (Facebook Post from Maria) 

 

In the meantime, Maria is pleased to hear that five Presidents have united to help Puerto Rico, including Jimmy Carter, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama.

There will also be a Salsa event held in Pittsburgh this weekend to help support victims of Puerto Rico and Maria hopes to attend:

 

HOT Salsa Nights Fundraiser: Puerto Rico Relief

Public · Hosted by Los Sabrosos Dance Co.

 Click Here for More Information about the event

 

 

You can contact Maria at mmanautou07@gmail.com, she is the Marketing Director at Brightside Academy's corporate office. 

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