Hurricane evacuees from Puerto Rico still displaced at holidays


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV)-- It has been 10 weeks since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. Despite relief efforts, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports there are still more than 2 million cubic yards of devastation that remain. This holiday season things are different for residents here in the mid-state and abroad.

It's a new season for little Eden, Katia Buckley's young daughter. The east Nashville mother explains holiday festivities are usually longer in her home of Puerto Rico.

Buckley says, "A constant party. One Christmas we would be at my Grandmother's house until 2 in the morning and then we'd wake up at 11 or noon and go back to Grandma's house and start it all over again. We do a thing where basically you go to someone's house in the middle of the night and you surprise them with music and a band and then they let you in."

But after the hurricane, Buckley's family and many others are not as focused on celebrating this year, rather surviving on the island.

"Things that I'm taking for granted my family there they're going without. I think that a lot of people have downplayed it because of the resilience of the people," she says.

In October, WZTV met the Nashville resident after her sister and niece escaped the devastation back home.

Buckley's sister, Maria Cortes explained then, "People were dying, they had no food, no water..."

Things remain back home despite more of Buckley's family joining the mid-state.

According to the island's government, 93 percent can access water now, but a boil advisory remains. Nearly a thousand survivors are still staying in dozens of shelters. Relief administrators say about 66 percent of power is restored, but not stable.

"The next morning they're like why is the power gone? My family is making do and they're doing amazing things with it but it's still a humanitarian crisis that they don't have running water or power in an American territory. Just because they can survive at this level of resources that they have, doesn't mean that they should have to... or anyone should have to," adds Buckley.

The governor reportedly says he wants power fully restored to Puerto Rico by Christmas.

"I know a lot of people are jaded because they're like we haven't seen him and there is still a lot of issues," Buckley says.

All Buckley and her siblings here want is to see their mother who is still on the island, for Christmas...

"We're trying to make that happen, but she took a job with FEMA and it's a really great job, but she's working 6 days a week, 11 hour days..." she explains, "People continue to raise awareness, continue giving the way they have been like our community gave so much to my family already. I think that's what the holiday season is all about: generosity and helping others and as my mom would say, no one can stop us."

Buckley's sister and brother are now making Nashville their home.

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