Cubs’ Nelson Vel?zquez takes stock of Hurricane Fiona’s devastation in Puerto Rico

MIAMI – When Cubs outfielder Nelson Vel?zquez called home on Tuesday, he learned the electricity at his mom’s house in Carolina, Puerto Rico had been restored. But now, the running water was shut off. He’s been checking in with his family every day since Hurricane Fiona made landfall on Sunday.

“Maybe one day they have electricity and another they have water, instead of everything going away,” he said in a conversation with the Sun-Times. “But everything at my house is good. They’re doing OK.”

Most of the island experienced a loss of running water and electricity. The storm ripped the roofs off houses and flooded residences and airports alike.

The storm also swept across the eastern side of the Dominican Republic. The heart of it missed San Cristobal, where Franmil Reyes’ family lives, and Santiago, Christopher Morel’s hometown, which is further inland.

Still, according to CNN, the hurricane left more than 1 million people in the Dominican Republic without running water.

Reyes opened his family group chat on WhatsApp earlier this week to see videos of destruction his family members had screen recorded from Instagram as Hurricane Fiona slammed the eastern side of the country.

Early on, the Emergency Operations Center issued a red alert for provinces including San Cristobal.

“It was nothing that scared me that much about my family because I knew they were going to be safe,” Reyes said, referencing the sturdy cement construction of their home, “but some people from my town that I grew up with and know, that worries me a little bit. Like I tell them all the time, they can always come to me, with what I can help with.

“I’m happy that nothing happened in my town to those people but sad because of what happened in Puerto Rico and some of those islands and the DR in the East too.”

The official MLB Puerto Rico Twitter account sent out a link to the league’s Red Cross donation collection page (redcross.org/MLB) on Tuesday. Former Cub Javy B?ez is among the MLB players who have lent their support to those affected by the hurricane. He offered free meals through a local restaurant in Puerto Rico, sending out the invitation via his instagram story.

Hurricane Fiona compounded the lingering aftereffects of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. When Maria struck in September 2017, just weeks after Hurricane Irma, it killed nearly 3,000 people and destroyed the power grid.

Vel?zquez said the Cubs had him stay in Arizona in the immediate aftermath.

“It was hard a little bit,” Vel?zquez said. “You want to be with your family. You take care of them and try to take care of anything they need. But I talked with them, they told me they were OK, they were doing good. So, I respected the team’s decision for me to stay there, be safe, and when I had the chance to go there they flew me out.”

Some residents had to wait 11 months for their power to be restored. Five years later, when Hurricane Fiona hit, Puerto Rico hadn’t fully recovered. Thousands of homes were still covered by tarps.

“We as a people, we have to be ready for anything,” Vel?zquez said. “I wish that wouldn’t happen anymore, that we can be good and not lose the house or anything like that. But we have to live with that. It’s natural.”

Hurricane Fiona headed north from the Dominican Republic and hit the Turks and Caicos Islandson Tuesday as a Category 3 storm.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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