Oakland men try to help family in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

- It's a difficult time for two  Oakland men who have relatives and friends in Puerto Rico who are caught in the path of Hurricane Maria.

They are keeping their spirits up by thinking about ways to help the people of their homeland rebuild their lives.

Borinquen Soul is a restaurant located in the Diamond District of Oakland.

It offers hearty food that reflects owner Eric Rivera's Puerto Rican roots.  

Now, he is cooking and trying to reach loved ones in and near San Juan after Hurricane Maria made landfall.

"Everybody's just scared.  Nobody knows what the aftermath brings," says Rivera. 

He tried repeatedly to call an elderly aunt and other relatives with no luck.

Then around 5 p.m. Wednesday, while a KTVU crew was at the restaurant, he finally got through to a cousin.

Being able to connect with one family member is a relief but the concern for other relatives only heightened.
He says his  cousin described a chaotic scene of devastation.

She said the Puerto Rican people have no electricity and many have flooded streets.

"From what she can see outside,  that area got hit pretty good.  But she's good," says Rivera who became emotional as he reflected on the situation.

Rivera's Uncle Jose Cheo Ortiz used his cell phone to monitor social media for news of the hurricane's impact. He has been trying to get in touch with his mother who's battling liver cancer.

Three months ago, Ortiz traveled to Puerto Rico  to celebrate her 80th birthday.

He hasn't been able to reach her since Tuesday afternoon.

"It's killing me. How is she doing?  How is she going to survive through this," says Ortiz.

Both men say Puerto Rico's  economy was already struggling.     Hurricane Maria coming so soon on the

heels of Hurricane Irma makes a difficult situation that much more heartbreaking.

"Once we assess what's going on, then we can go and do more," says Rivera.

Before the hurricane, Ortiz had planned to go to Puerto Rico in December,

"Now, I won't be going for holiday. Now I have an important mission to see what I can do to  help the island," says Ortiz,"We are Puerto Rican and we are a strong people.  In situation like that,  we get together."

The two men are planning a food and clothing drive as well as a fundraiser to help the victims of Hurricane Maria.  But they say ultimately, it's the spirit and strength of the Puerto Rican people that will help them get through this disaster.  

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