Puerto Rico: Hurricane Maria Relief

Initial Visit to Puerto Rico: October 2017

October 10, 2017

Photo Series

Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria

Soon after Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico's electricity, water, and telecommunications infrastructure, RMF sent a team to conduct a needs assessment, bring some initial medical supplies, and form local connections. From October 4th to the 10th, our team traveled from the capital city of San Juan to the towns of Dorado, Vega Alta, Vega Baja, Morovis, and Ciales. It is RMF's goal to strengthen well-placed, dedicated local healthcare providers and reach underserved and isolated communities through health ourtreaches. 

Photos from the team's visit show the distruction and immense need throughout these areas: 

Outside the Ritz Carlton, San Juan. There are no working traffic signals in any part of the island, according to people we talked to. There were 4-way stops everywhere, some with traffic cops, most without.

Military C-130 Hercules landing in San Juan. We saw many military aircraft in the skies. 

Caved-in building along the highway

Saturday night in San Juan is busy, and this was part of the street life along the main strip.

6- to 8-foot-high piles of hurricane debris throughout San Juan 

Full moon in the clouds, next to one of the few hotels with power in San Juan. 


Clean Water Crisis in Puerto Rico

US military personnel directing a water tanker pulling out of a well station

Long lines forming to get water from a government-controlled well source

This Puerto Rican police officer (center), lives 2 hours away. His home has no power or running water, and he is working 16 hours a day. He is flanked by 2 NYC police officers who volunteered to come to PR. They work 12- to 15-hour shifts guarding the rare water source.

On our way to Ciales, we passed an area where residents were collecting runoff water.

These children are collecting runoff water, which is extremely dangerous. This shows how desperate people are for water. 


Emergency Medical Center, Vega Alta, Puerto Rico

RMF’s team gathered 250 lb. of basic medications and supplies in Miami, en route to San Juan.

Meet Dr. Emilio Rivera, our first contact in Vega Alta. He runs 5 health facilities with his partner. Vega Alta is approximately 30 km outside of San Juan.

Dr. Emilio Rivera gladly accepts a duffle full of RMF supplies. We were honored to meet this wonderful person.

Meet Dr. Luis Gonzalez, Dr. Rivera's partner.

Dr. Gonzalez gives RMF’s team a rundown on the lengthy list of medications they need.

Doctors Gonzales and Rivera with medical staff in Vega Alta and RMF’s Dr. Patrick Dupont (far right) 

Emergency Medical Center in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico 

Exterior view of the second emergency room. There are large downed trees everywhere here. Fortunately, this one did not land on the building.

Meet Dr. Arthur. He works at the second emergency clinic. He works 16-hour days, often seeing 7–8 patients in an hour.

Dr. Arthur shows us the bare cabinets and details the many medications and supplies they need.

He leads us through a dark part of the clinic. Since it is completely powered by generator, most of the clinic has no lights or AC.

Dr. Arthur has an intense but fatigued look. He leads us through areas of the hospital they cannot use because of lack of power and resources. 


Town of Ciales, Puerto Rico 

A monument high on a hilltop, overlooking the valley and town of Ciales (to the right)

Valley of Ciales

A Puerto Rican Flag waves as a storm approaches in Ciales.

Hundreds line up for boxes of foodstuffs supplied by the Red Cross. Distribution was soon interrupted by heavy rain.

RMF’s Edwin Rodriguez graciously helps 2 women with their box.

The rain comes down hard. A man sees me with my camera and invites me to take pictures of his destroyed home. He built this home only last year. 


Town of Morovis, Puerto Rico 

Meet Dr. Rodriguez, our contact in the town of Morovis. RMF’s Edwin knows him through family. He gladly shows us around.

RMF’s team visits a shelter in Morovis. This woman kindly allows us to photograph her and her husband.

Her husband has no legs. They lost everything in the storm.

“Welcome.” A converted classroom becomes a de facto room for those who have lost their homes.

A curious young boy plays with chains securing the door.

The boy’s mother, while telling us her story about losing their home and being out of work, rushes over to tend to her son.

Meet Dr. Alvarado, OB-GYN. She has been working not only in her own office, but also in the emergency clinic around the clock. The clinic has no electricity.

Dr. Alvarado’s office is about 90°F, with no ventilation. This is where she works all day with no light. 


Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Puerto Rico 

A house crushed by a downed power line in Vega Baja. Destruction like this is everywhere in Puerto Rico.

Another tree that took out a power line

Entrance to Dr. Rodriguez’s clinic. The roof was torn off in the storm.

This is how medicine is functioning in most of Puerto Rico: no lights in a hot room. The light of a cell phone ensures the proper dose.

We give medical staff a duffle of RMF supplies in a dark supply closet. 


Vega Baja Shelter in Puerto Rico 

RMF’s team visits a second shelter, this one in Vega Baja, with 144 people. This man lost everything in the storm.

These are the children staying in the Vega Baja shelter.

This lady told us of carrying her small children out of chest-high floodwaters. She started crying, recounting the trauma to me. “I was terrified as an adult; I can’t imagine what it was like for them,” she told me.

The kids in the shelter loved hamming it up for the camera.

Dr. Rodriguez tends to an elderly patient in the shelter. The age range in the shelter is 1 month to 103 years old.

This is one of four families sleeping in a single converted classroom. Like many others, they have lost everything.

Clothes hang next to a completely destroyed basketball court. There is very little to do in this shelter, with no electricity, phone service, running water, or internet. 


Hurricane Landfall in Puerto Rico

Overlooking the town of Emajagua, where Hurricane Maria first made landfall. Some of the worst destruction is in the southern coastal region. 

A basketball court’s roof destroyed by the storm in the town Emajagua

There are downed power lines and debris everywhere.

An abandoned home, completely destroyed by 150 mph winds

Life goes on in Maunabo after the storm.

Heavily damaged solar farm

Real Medicine Foundation is working to create a relief program in Puerto Rico, and we need your help! With your kind support, we can provide local medical professionals with the supplies they need to effectively treat patients and reach underserved populations. 



On September 20, 2017, Category 4 Hurricane Maria hit the US territory of Puerto Rico. The winds, 155 miles per hour at landfall, completely wiped out the island’s power grid and phone towers. A flash flood emergency was declared in central Puerto Rico, and the island experienced record flooding.

Prior to the hurricane, Puerto Rico’s infrastructure was weak, and the storm left the small island crippled. Across the island, cities reported collapsed bridges and severe damage to roadways. On October 2, almost two weeks after the storm, 55% of people were still without access to drinking water, only 1 of 69 hospitals was fully operational, and 80% of the island’s crops had been destroyed. The full extent of the damage is still unclear, as most telephone and internet lines are still down. The damage has left many rural areas isolated, without access to communication or desperately needed supplies: food, water, shelter, and medical supplies.


  • To provide primary health care and essential supplies to unreached, hurricane-affected communities
  • To form local partnerships and empower local health professionals, ensuring effective service provision to communities most in need