ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - A group of powerful Minnesotans with deep ties to Puerto Rico are stepping up to help their devastated homeland.
"The situation is dire,” said Minnesota State Senator Melisa Franzen. “There are 3.5 million U.S. citizens on the island of Puerto Rico."
The Caribbean island and U.S. territory was decimated this week by Hurricane Maria. Most Puerto Rican residents are facing weeks or months without electricity.
"Puerto Rico is a war zone,” said Maria Isa, a Minnesota musician and actress who has family in Puerto Rico. “It looks like a bomb fell on us. But we're strong and need your help."
Puerto Rico's electrical grid was in bad shape before the powerful storm hit because of an enormous $73 billion debt crisis that left the state power company broke and Maria caused extensive new damage. There is no timeline for when power might be fully restored and the flooding in some pockets is catastrophic.
Compounding the misery and uncertainty for those with loved ones on the island, there is very little communication with telephone networks ravaged.
"They need our help,” said Franzen. “They need our awareness."
Franzen just returned from Puerto Rico earlier this week before Maria barreled right across her homeland with furious winds and drenching rain on a historic scale.
"It's unbelievable that on Tuesday, I said goodbye to my family in the airport,” said Franzen. “And it's now Friday and I still have not heard from them."
She and others are begging Minnesotans to step up and give in this time of need. She reports that collections have begun across the Twin Cities for financial assistance as well as life-saving essentials that they hope to ship out as soon as possible.
"This is all of us,” said Isa. “We need to stay united and strong. And think about the future of Puerto Rico."
The Saint Paul Foundation has helped set up a fundraiser here.