A Myrtle Beach local and Coastal Carolina University alumna is asking for help after Hurricane Maria destroyed much of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Cari Baun, 35, graduated from Coastal Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in nursing in 2011. She worked at several hospitals in the area before moving to St. Croix and serving the people there.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria both impacted the islands, but Maria did damage that forever changed the lives of the 50,000 people who live there.
Baun said that following Hurricane Irma, the people of St. Croix, including the company she works for, AeroMD, supplied immediate aid to the people of St. Thomas and St. John. AeroMD is an air ambulance company contracted with FEMA, or Federal Emergency Management Agency.
She was speechless when she landed in St. Thomas after Irma left its mark.
“When we arrived to St. Thomas to begin transport, it was a surreal experience,” said Baun. “All of the beautiful, lush foliage was completely gone from Irma. Roads were blocked by debris, power lines, parts of people’s homes and many other hazards.”
St. Croix continued relief efforts to their sister islands until Maria was on their doorstep.
“We prepared ourselves the best we could and braced for impact,” said Baun. “No one slept that night. The wind and rain was deafening. It's heartbreaking to see your friends post that they've lost their roof and can't exit the house because they're trapped inside.”
She said she and her loved ones were fortunate enough to have cell service throughout the storm so they could communicate with neighbors and friends on the island.
The next morning, the people of St. Croix went outside and immediately started looking at the destruction.
“It was Irma all over again, only this time for the population of St. Croix,” said Baun.
Baun said the people on the island need a lot of help. Their top priority: fresh water.
“We have a curfew that is only lifted for four hours a day since Maria hit, and most people spend two of those four hours waiting for their turn to pump gas for generators and find water,” said Baun.
The people of St. Croix are sticking together, though. Helping out their neighbors where they can and doing their part to bring attention to the island.
“…despite having little media coverage, our community is a tight-knit, strong, resilient community,” said Baun. “We're helping each other as best we can. We're keeping our spirits up and taking each day as it comes.”
Baun is optimistic the island will continue to flourish and hopes people will still travel to the vacation spot.
“It's still a beautiful island. The trees will be green again by winter and the water is still a vibrant blue,” Baun said. “Please continue to plan your vacations with us. Help our economy by showing up and eating at our restaurants and shopping in our communities.”
Baun is not only looking out for the people, but the animals of St. Croix, as well. She said the animal rescue shelter was destroyed and now there are a lot of stray animals roaming around the island. Supplies to help the animals are needed, too.
Shipping is a slow process right now, according to Baun. She said the airport is only open for relief and mercy flights. The postal service will not run until further notice, and one of the shipping companies on the island burned down the day after the storm.
Tropical Shipping out of Miami, Florida, is still in service.
U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority announced that 90 percent of the island should have power restored by late December.
Baun has created a PayPal account to receive monetary donations. She plans to purchase goods locally when businesses are back open and to begin helping the animal rescues in their recovery process.
She also provided a list of some of the items they need:
To donate, click here.