BUSHWICK — Irma Torres watched in horror last week as a 7.1-magnitude earthquake rocked the Mexican state of Puebla, where the family of her 2-year-old son's father lives.
In the days that followed, Torres learned that her relatives were accounted for, but Hurricane Maria began to beat down on Puerto Rico, where Torres' family is from. The 26-year-old lifelong Bushwick resident still hasn't been able to contact her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, she said.
"We don't have communication. We don't know if they're ok." Torres said, as she taped up fliers along storefronts on Bushwick Avenue Friday morning with information on where to donate water, baby formula, socks, bug spray and other essential supplies for Puerto Ricans. "Right now there's no contact. No electricity. There's no light. My people are still without water. It's devastating."
Irma Torres was volunteering Friday to help spread the word about a local collection drive. (DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan)
Torres is one of many Bushwick residents and business owners with roots in Mexico and Puerto Rico, who've been scrambling to send supplies and funds to loved ones back home. Between 60 and 80 percent of all Mexican immigrants to New York City come from Puebla or the areas southeast of Mexico City, near the epicenter of the earthquake.
"Even though I'm here I feel it so much," said Vicky Vaquero, 47, who works at La Esperanza Deli Grocery, a Mexican grocer on Wyckoff Avenue. She didn't hear from her mother or sisters in Puebla for three days after the earthquake, which authorities say has killed at least 320 people.
"It was terrible. I couldn't sleep," she said in Spanish. Vaquero has since learned that her family is safe, but that her hometown has been leveled. A group of friends and relatives from Puebla mounted an informal collection Thursday evening for residents there. She chipped in Pampers, water, juice, containers of beans and whatever else she could spare. It's helped her feel less powerless, she said.
"It's a way to support [them] even though I'm so far," Vaquero said.
George Tamayo, 35, a part owner of C+M Coffee Shop on Himrod Street, said he was on the phone with his wife who was visiting Puebla for two weeks when the earthquake hit.
"I'll call you back, I gotta evacuate," Tamayo said she told him. Their families were spared, but now he's pinching every penny he can to send to relatives there.
"Right now, money," is the most important thing, he said, adding that many of his friends and families homes are destroyed and they were already living in poverty to begin with. "I want to go over there but I can't leave the buisnesses."
Jose Rivera, 75, who was manning a collection table outside of Latinos Americanos Unidos at 218 Wyckoff Ave. said his hometown of Cayey, Puerto Rico, is devastated. His son's home there has become a refuge for the whole extended family since it was built on a raised foundation and has solar panels, so it still has electricity.
"You see your town. You see everything we've lost... It's a disaster" he said. "We all have to come together."
Joseph Yanis, the chief of staff for Assemblywoman Maritza Davila, whose district includes Bushwick, said donations have been pouring in to their office. They're sending supplies to victims of Hurricane Irma through Tuesday and then will start collecting for Puerto Rican victims.
"A lot of the local small businesses have actually been dropping off donations, people are in coming in off the streets," he said. "It's been an amazing outpouring of support these past 48 hours."
HOW TO GIVE:
► Firehouses at 392 Himrod St. and 582 Knickerbocker Ave. are accepting diapers, baby food, batteries, first aid supplies and feminine hygiene products, to send to Puerto Rico, according to the city.
► A collection drive run by local organizations is accepting donations for victims of Hurricane Irma and Maria.
They will take bottled water, socks, bug spray, hygiene products, baby formula, diapers and nonperishable snacks. They have drop off locations at Latinos Americanos Unidos at 218 Wyckoff Ave., Make the Road NY (301 Grove St.), Maritza Davila's Office (249 Wilson Ave.), New Jerusalem (484 Knickerbocker Ave.), La Nueva Esperana (211 Johnson Ave.), and Bushwick United Methodist (1139 Bushwick Ave).
► UNICEF Mexico is collecting donations for relief efforts.
► The Charity Global Giving is raising $2.5 million for earthquake relief.
► The Puerto Rican Organization ComPRmetidos is accepting donations that will go directly to relief efforts.