People in Northeast Ohio reach loved ones in Puerto Rico thanks to social media, apps

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Some are relieved, while others still wait. Many in Northeast Ohio have waited a couple days to hear from their loved ones in Hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico. But even with the entire island without power, some have miraculously been able to get through.

"It's just a relief to hear that, you know, 'we're okay,'" said Irvin Maldonado.

With all of the devastation across Puerto Rico, Irvin Maldonado heard the words that so many others have been anxiously waiting to hear.

He finally reached his loved ones, who live 20 minutes away from where a powerful category four Hurricane Maria came ashore early Wednesday morning.

"Social media, we kept trying and trying and trying and trying and finally we were able to get through and 'we're okay' type of thing and then you'll lose the signal real fast. Most of the towers are down. I used an app called 'WhatsApp' and we were able to get that back, 'yes, we're okay,'" Maldonado said.

Angelo Ortiz also reached his family, briefly. He says they were terrified, but okay.

"You get spotty reception every now and then; you might be talking, next thing you know it's gone, so you gotta say what you gotta say or text it. Messenger, I believe, is working the best," said Ortiz.

Both men are part of an organization called Latin American Academics Athletics and Arts. It is holding a donation drive to send needed supplies back home. Volunteers are collecting items like bottled water, canned foods and toiletries at the San Lorenzo Club on West 33rd Street in Cleveland.

"When you see a place like that, home, go through a disaster like that, like it happened in Houston like it happened in Florida, it hits home," said Margie Colon, also part of the organization.

"Who would have known that we would have gone hurricane after hurricane, all these earthquakes, I mean, just so much atrocities in the world right now," said Pastor Samuel Rosario of Church Alive International in Brook Park.

The best advice for people who still have not heard from loved ones: be patient.

"Any of these little apps that are out there that do walkie talkie type of thing, you'll get through eventually; you gotta keep trying," said Maldonado.

"I know that there's a God and we're good people and we will get through this," said Colon.

The donation drive will be held from noon until 8:00 p.m. daily through Sunday at Club San Lorenzo on West 33rd Street.

There are also several hurricane hotline numbers that have been set up to help people locate loved ones in Puerto Rico.

202-778-0710 is a federal government number to help people locate friends and family in Puerto Rico.

787-777-0940 is a radio station that is taking emergency calls for people who need help.

877-976-2400 is set up by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company for hotels, guests and industry partners.

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