Valley Resident Returns after Helping Family Recover in Puerto Rico
PHARR – It's been four months since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico but the recovery continues. A local barbershop owner recently returned to the Rio Grande Valley after helping his family on the island rebuild.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke to Brian Illas shortly after the hurricane struck the island where he was born and raised.
He says thanks to social media, he was able to check in on his family before leaving to the island to help. Now, he returned after witnessing the devastation first hand.
"The first thing I saw coming out of the airport were street signs all over the road,” he says. “It looked like a scene from Resident Evil. It looked like a ghost town.”
Illas spent the last three weeks helping his family get back on their feet. He said he’s grateful they are still holding up.
"Just like everyone they suffered roof damage. Their cars were destroyed but physically they are fine,” he tells us.
He showed us pictures he took during his trip. One shows a fishing community, near where Illas use to live, now in shambles.
Another photo shows a giant parking lot now completely covered in sand.
"Everything is destroyed. Homes at the center of the island and in the mountains, all destroyed,” he says. “The trees don't look like trees anymore. Many villages are flattened.”
Illas says during the time he was there, living day-to-day meant many challenges.
"They have a natural spring in the central part of the island. They were taking the water out with PVC pipes and filling jugs and selling it," he says.
His time in Puerto Rico was limited, Illas says. He couldn’t leave his business, located in Pharr, unattended forever.
Illas says he's sending his family the profits he makes from his barbershop. "We are (also) sending canned food. I'm still collecting more to send.”
And there’s still a long waiting list for FEMA aid in Puerto Rico, according to Illas.
He adds while the road to recovery is long and difficult, he's not giving up and is already planning to take another trip to help out this summer.
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