Trump Approves US Virgin Islands Disaster Declaration Following Hurricane Maria

In an executive order signed Wednesday, Gov. Eric Greitens directed the adjutant general to activate soldiers as part of a request from the U.S. Virgin Islands for aid.

Almost 400 dogs and cats were rescued from the Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma and flown to Hampton Roads, Virginia on Wednesday.

That's where Island Dog Rescue, based out of Virginia Beach, comes in to help. Sali Gear, an animal lover who lives in Virginia Beach now, is actually from the Virgin Islands. Hurricane Maria was a direct hit on St. Croix just days after Hurricane Irma decimated sister islands St. Thomas and St. John, and was identified as the strongest storm in more than 80 years. The chartered flight alone cost $112,000 and all of the carriers cost $5,000.

"I did it because it had to be done", Gear told the Virginian Pilot. But they're also calling on people who took animals in during the hurricane to come forward about where they found the pets and what condition they were in.

On Tuesday, the 300 animals safely arrived in Norfolk, Virginia - some in cages marked with the note "I survived Hurricane Irma".

Getting those dogs back to America was a bigger task than anything she'd done before, so Gear turned to the web for help. She said that that her crowdfunding effort began simply as "two people having Island Dog Rescue on social media creating a swell of support", and that "people have moved heaven and earth to make this happen".

'I honestly, I was about to start crying, ' said volunter Tinsley Sarrett.

Almost 50 dogs had been rescued by state authorities in Florida before Irma even hit.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-priced loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster, according to the release.

According to WAVY, Gear grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but lost everything when Hurricane Hugo hit the territory in 1989.

  • Jon Douglas