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Puerto Rico Will Accept Thousands of Refugees from Islands Affected by Hurricane Irma

Joshua Alicea, right, rescue staff member from the Municipal Emergency Management Agency toured the streets of the Matelnillo community searching for citizens in distress during the passage of Hurricane Irma through the northeastern part of the island in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The US territory was first to declare a state of emergency las Monday, as the National Hurricane Center forecast that the storm would strike the Island Wednesday.
Carlos Giusti/AP

After being hit by Hurricane Irma last week, Puerto Rico, an island where nearly half of all residents live below the poverty line, is nonetheless stepping up to help its neighbors in need. 

On Wednesday 2,000 refugees from the US Virgin Islands boarded a cruise ship to Puerto Rico, Reuters reports. Other refugees were airlifted by US military aircraft on Tuesday from the islands of St. Martin and the US Virgin Islands, according to the report. 

“Puerto Rico welcomes our fellow American citizens with open arms and supportive hearts,” Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marín wrote in a post on Twitter

Videos from Thursday morning also show refugees arriving by boat from the nearby island of St. Thomas. 

For refugees who can’t afford a hotel room on the island, Puerto Rico plans to house them in a convention center in San Juan, according to Reuters. The expenses will be covered by US emergency funding, a government spokesperson told the news agency. 

On Sunday, the Trump administration said that it would increase emergency funding to both Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. 

Read More: This Nun With a Chainsaw Is Helping in Post-Irma Cleanup

Hurricane Irma’s toll on the island, which currently faces a $70 billion debt crisis, was significant. Last week, Univision reported that as many as 150,000 Puerto Ricans were without safe drinking water and more than 900,000 were out of power, as of last Thursday

“The people of Puerto Rico — what big hearts you guys got,” William Vonfabrice, a resident of St. John in the US Virgin Islands told Reuters. “And from the hardest struggle, that’s where the real people come out.”

Puerto Rico was not the only island nation to offer aid to victims of the crisis. 

Read More: Hurricane Irma Left 2 Manatees Stranded. Then 5 Floridians Came to the Rescue

Cuba sent 750 doctors to other Caribbean islands to help assess damages and provide emergency care in the wake of the disaster. The island of St. Lucia announced it would take in prisoners from Turks and Caicos Islands and the British Virgin Islands, after prisons were damaged there. 

On Thursday, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello wrote on Twitter that President Trump would visit the island to assess the damages as part of his Irma relief trip to affected areas in the US

As the cleanup from the recent storms continues, some remain without secure access to food and water

Here’s how you can be a Global Citizen and help victims of the crisis — from anywhere in the world.