After weathering Hurricane Irma just days ago, residents in the Caribbean are bracing for yet another potentially destructive threat gathering strength in the Atlantic.
Hurricane Maria has intensified to a Category 3 storm and is expected to gain strength to a Category 4 before making landfall in Puerto Rico on Wednesday. Maria’s first landfall is expected to occur Monday night on the islands of Dominica and Martinique.
The U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, and St. Lucia are also under hurricane warnings.
Maria is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 6 to 12 inches, with isolated areas getting as much as 20 inches across the central and southern Leeward Islands, and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands through Wednesday night, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Puerto Rico may receive even more rain, with some areas expecting more than 25 inches.
Rain is also expected for the northern Leeward Islands from Barbuda to Anguilla, eastern portions of the Dominican Republic, as well as the Windward Islands and Barbados.
“Rainfall on all of these islands could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,” the center said.
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) September 18, 2017
Hurricane Irma’s path steered north of Puerto Rico, largely leaving the island unscathed. Many sought medical care there, after surrounding Caribbean islands were devastated by the storm, and as many as 2,000 people are being triaged and their health evaluated.
Puerto Rico is expecting a surge in medical needs associated with the care of these patients, even as they brace for Maria’s landfall.
On Monday, Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello issued mandatory evacuations for portions of the island, and 450 shelters were slated to open Monday afternoon to receive residents.
Direct Relief has been coordinating with the Puerto Rico Department of Health, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response regarding emergency response in the aftermath of Irma. Direct Relief is currently working with contacts at the country’s emergency operations center to gather a list of needs.
The two municipal islands of Culebras and Vieques, located to the east of Puerto Rico, were affected by Hurricane Irma, and four shipments, including anitbiotics, wound care and other medical supplies, are scheduled to leave for these municipalities Tuesday.
Multiple shipments of medical aid have gone out to those impacted by Hurricane Irma, including St. Maarten, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Direct Relief has also received requests for medical aid from two medical distributions centers that will be a hub for donations going to medical clinics. Over the past weekend, Direct Relief received one request for medical aid. The shipment is scheduled to depart this week.
The need for dialysis care in the country is also significant. Puerto Rico is currently caring for about 120 dialysis patients from other parts of the Caribbean that are currently being housed in hotels but will likely be placed in special needs shelters and will require long-term care.
Direct Relief is in contact with physicians caring for many of those patients and working on a needs list for insulin and other required medications.