SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (WCBD)- A team of American Red Cross volunteers from across the Southeast is heading to Puerto Rico to lend aid and support in the wake of a devastating natural disaster

Hurricane Fiona struck Puerto Rico’s southwest coast on Sunday afternoon as a Category 1 storm, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Along with catastrophic flooding, nearly the entire island–more than half a million people–is without power.

Dori Baumwart, Divisional Advisor for the Southeast for Disaster Spiritual Care, said Red Cross volunteers are still working to assess the damage in order to create a relief plan.

“The first group of people that go out there are people that do damage assessment and so they are all over the island canvassing as much of it as they can in the time period that they have,” she said. “Yesterday was pretty much day one for us.”

She added that the community’s needs are re-assessed each day to ensure an appropriate response.

“We have a headquarters, where I’ll be working, and that’s where we’ll actually identify every single day where we need to pinpoint [aid] for that day and the next day too,” she said. “We do it day by day in a disaster because the situations change very fluidly.”

Baumwart added part of the goal Red Cross is to give the community an outlet to express the personal impacts of the disaster.

“I’ve already talked to some folks that I know that were in standing water that was five feet high and that had to stand in that for many hours,” she said. “These are stories that are really tough that people do need to be able to tell and they do better when they tell their stories. So we’re there as a listening presence to help them to move through it.”

Volunteers will be in Puerto Rico for the next two weeks, lending support both spiritually and physically and as Baumwart puts it: “being a presence.”

“When we pull one of our vehicles over, we want people to come see us and get their water, get their food, and everything,” she said. “We want to be a presence where they can come right up, get what they need, and then leave and go back where they need to be.”

The Red Cross previously sent a team to Puerto Rico to assist with relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

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