BERLIN - Hurricane Maria swept through Puerto Rico on Sept. 20. More than two months later, the island is still recovering, but help from Connecticut - including a Berlin resident - is on the way.
At least 55 people have died as a result of the storm, which caused $95 billion in damage, with more than 25 percent of the U.S. territory’s cities and towns still without power.
To help with post-recovery efforts, the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection has deployed 13 state troopers, including a Berlin resident, to Puerto Rico. They left from Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks Monday afternoon.
“With the understanding that holidays are about caring, I thought it would be nice to help out,” said one of the troopers, Sgt. Alex Giannone of Berlin. “Anything we can do to help return some normalcy in Puerto Ricans’ lives is a good thing.”
The troopers will be patrolling and providing security and traffic assistance in conjunction with the local police, a release announcing the deployment stated.
“Connecticut is home to some of the bravest, brightest, and most selfless state troopers in the nation,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said in the release. “I’m incredibly proud of the troopers that volunteered to assist the people of Puerto Rico in their time of need, and wish them a successful tour of duty, and a safe return home.”
Giannone, who said he is proficient in conversational Spanish, will be leaving behind his wife and two children during the deployment.
In the state police for more than 10 years, Giannone, a Republican, was elected earlier this month to the Town Council.
He said he expects to return home by Dec. 14.
“We could not be more proud of the troopers who have stepped up to partner with Puerto Rico police to keep its towns and cities safe as the island continues to recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria,” DESPP Commissioner Dora Schriro said. “The Connecticut State Police ... continues to demonstrate the many ways in which they are among the most community-focused police forces in the country.”
In addition to the state trooper deployment, the state has 100 National Guardsmen in roles including coordinating communications with relief organizations and greeting flights from San Juan at the airport.
Associated Press reports were included in this story.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @CPaullinNBH.