Public Statement in the Wake of Hurricane Maria

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Release Date: 
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

NLADA Public Statement in the Wake of Hurricane Maria


The total devastation wrought by the recent spate of hurricanes is unprecedented. After being in the center of both Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have experienced damage on a historic scale. Both territories are facing massive power outages that are expected to last for at least the next several months, threatening the health, safety and shelter of millions of people. Our thoughts are with these communities, and with colleagues, friends and families elsewhere, many of whom are still unable to reach their loved ones.

We still do not know the scope of the immediate damage Hurricane Maria has caused, or that of potential future catastrophes that might be caused by damage to the infrastructure, as well as restricted access to necessities and critical human services. Puerto Rico’s Guajataca Dam was severely compromised by the storm. More than 70,000 people live in the path of the dam, and are in extreme danger if it gives way.

With so many people in need of basic services—medical attention, food, water, electricity, housing, phone and internet services – the need for first responders is immense. Assistance, resources and relief efforts from both the public and private sectors are required on a massive scale. This will be a long-term effort. We will need civil legal aid, public defenders and pro bono volunteers to meet a challenge of incomparable scope, long after national media attention wanes. Just as advocates in Louisiana are still litigating claims filed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the legal community will provide critical support as rebuilding efforts begin, and for many years to come.

The needs generated by this catastrophe are vast. We know that the road to recovery will be difficult. Even as our community has only begun to respond to the numerous wildfires and hurricanes devastating the country, we must now redouble our resolve to come together to support those impacted by all of these disasters. We must work to ensure the availability of resources and expertise not just now, but for years to come. We must stretch and show our colleagues and clients that we are in this together and for the long haul.

The National Disaster Legal Aid Resource Center is a collaboration of Pro Bono Net, the American Bar Association, the Legal Services Corporation and NLADA. This online resource provides readily available legal information about disaster recovery on housing, insurance claims, employment and other vital issues. The site incorporates lessons learned from past experiences and continually improves on procedures during natural disasters, responses to future emergencies and ensures that the inevitable longer-term needs are met.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still very much in response and safety mode. NLADA and others are in communication with advocates on the ground. We will continue to provide relevant updates and work diligently to aid our members, colleagues, supporters and friends as best we can. Just as it has in the past, the legal community is ready to step in and step up to bolster and support local needs and efforts. Our national networks stand ready to respond together.