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Owners of Beaverton's Borikén Restaurant feel the impact of devastating storm.

TIMES PHOTO: MANDY FEDER-SAWYER - Samuel Vazquez, proprietor of Borikén Restaurant, is trying to get help to his father-in-law in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Samuel Vazquez and Awilda Medina-Vazquez are feeling the impact of the devastation in Puerto Rico from their home in Beaverton.

The Vazquezes own Borikén Restaurant, 12800 S.W. Canyon Road, where they serve authentic Caribbean cuisine — recipes they brought with them from Puerto Rico.

Awilda's father lives in Utuado, P.R., which is up in the mountains, Samuel Vazquez said.

"He hasn't been suffering with floods," said Vazquez. "The problem is there are landslides in the rural and isolated area."

It took about a week and a half for Awilda Medina-Vazquez's father to be able to contact them following Hurricane Maria, which made direct landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20.

Maria, already regarded as the worst natural disaster on record in the nearby island nation of Dominica, has caused a massive humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, as well as in the neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands. The storm, which peaked at Category 5 before making landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane, is the 10th most intense Atlantic cyclone on record, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Though Medina-Vazquez's father is in good health, he had trouble getting to services.

"All the food in the refrigerator was no good anymore," Samuel Vazquez said. "The biggest worry was to get them food and water."

The Vazquezes heard that even though there was no mail delivery, the post office was open. They sent a generator, which was supposed to arrive in Puerto Rico in two or three days.

"It's been 11 days," Samuel Vazquez said. "There's still no sign of it."

The couple hoped to go there and help. Vazquez said he found that they could get there by plane, but coming back would be difficult because there are so many people waiting to get out. It could take them three weeks or more to return home, he said.

He said for now, people in Puerto Rico are collecting rainwater, which used to be a common practice.

Medina-Vazquez's father has recently been able to drive to zones where there are cellphone towers. It takes him about an hour. This brings another issue to the surface: There is a shortage of gasoline.

"He (Awilda's father) stood in line for about two hours, but before he could get any, the gas ran out," Samuel Vazquez said. "He went to another gas station and was able to get gas after about three hours."

Vazquez said there are many issues that make getting help to Puerto Rico a little slow, including the fact that many of its population centers are inland, separated from the coastal ports by roads that often pass through rugged, mountainous terrain. Even still, he said, he does not think help is coming fast enough.

Vazquez was born in New York, but he lived in Puerto Rico in the 1970s and '80s. He remembers good times there. That was a time when he attended college with a major in biology.

"It hurts to see them go through this," he said.

It's been about five years since Vazquez has gone to Puerto Rico — most of his family lives in Connecticut and Massachusetts, he said — but his wife goes back every year to visit family.

Until the Vazquezes figure out other ways to help, they will volunteer at the "Help is on the Way" fundraiser, cooking pork and providing homemade desserts at the Crystal Ballroom on Sunday, Oct. 15, from noon to 5 p.m.

The fundraiser is an all-ages event that features food, music and an auction. The cost is $25 for adults and $15 for children. According to organizers, 100 percent of the proceeds will be going to victims of Hurricane Maria through One America Appeal.

The One America Appeal initiative is a joint effort originally launched by all five living former American presidents to encourage their fellow citizens to support recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey, which inundated the Texas Gulf Coast with unprecedented flooding in late August. It has since been expanded to include areas most affected by Hurricane Irma, which cut a swath through the Caribbean before making landfall in Florida, where it caused flooding and wind damage, and Maria.

For more information, visit helpisonthewaypuertorico.com. To donate, visit oneamericanappeal.org/donateMaria.

By Mandy Feder-Sawyer
Reporter, Beaverton Valley Times
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By Mandy Feder-Sawyer
Reporter, Beaverton Valley Times
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