"It all started because I wanted to save one bird," a student in Puerto Rico who goes by "Michelle H" tweeted on Wednesday, Sept. 20. Following that one tweet is a thread of videos featuring various birds jumping around on towels in Michelle's home, according to The Telegraph. In total, Michelle has rescued 90 birds from Hurricane Maria.
The Telegraph reported that after Michelle saw one helpless bird stranded in a hurricane that would go on to devastate the island, she couldn't stop herself from rescuing more. Eventually, she had dozens, and she enlisted her friends to help. Wearing gloves, she and her friends filled her house with the small creatures which otherwise would have faced catastrophic winds without protection. Indeed, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Michelle reportedly saw many unlucky birds dead outside — victims of rain, wind, and fallen trees.
As soon as it was safe outside, Michelle let the birds she'd saved go, which she also documented. One video shows a green and yellow bird taking off into the night sky, shooting off over broken branches and wet stone tiles.
Twitter was quick to praise her.
"You are a kind and beautiful soul," one user wrote. "Thank you being such a beautiful soul that even birds trust you! You are like Cinderella!" said another.
According to Michelle's Twitter thread, she was in the Río Piedras area of San Juan when she and her friends began their rescue mission. Michelle's story blew up across Twitter, garnering thousands of reactions from other users. Stories of good will toward animals have flooded social media in recent weeks, as a series of natural disasters have repeatedly struck the region.
Another story, out of Virginia Beach, details a mad-dash to save 300 cats and dogs from the U.S. Virgin Islands between when Hurricane Irma ended and Hurricane Maria was about to begin, according to The Virginian Pilot.
Sali Gear, the co-owner of a nonprofit called Island Dog Rescue, which specifically rescues animals from the U.S. Virgin Islands, had planned to take a more leisurely pace when transporting animals affected by Hurricane Irma. According to The Virginian Pilot, that changed when Hurricane Maria was forecasted to devastate the island again, on short notice.
Raising money from donors, Gear chartered flights out of Miami and rapidly rescued at least 300 animals. She told The Virginian Pilot that she hadn't slept more than four hours a night for nearly two weeks. The deprivation, however, was worth it, she said.
The Caribbean and virtually every island immediately adjacent have been slammed with a one-two punch of Category 5 hurricanes since the beginning of September. Particularly in Puerto Rico, which was already devastated by Hurricane Irma, residents are facing the possibility of weeks, or even months, without electricity, CBS reported. Hurricane Maria marked the strongest storm to hit the island in more than 80 years.
According to CBS, Puerto Rico is still being hit by rain, and flash flood warnings remain in effect. As of 1 a.m. ET on Friday morning, Maria's eye was approaching Turks and Caicos, as well as the southeastern Bahamas. It has dropped to a Category 3 storm.
The New York Times described Puerto Rico's power grid as "all but destroyed," and Puerto Rican government officials expect the recovery to take an extremely long time. According to the BBC, at least 10 people across the Caribbean have died because of Maria-related accidents. Due to continued flooding, residents are encouraged to continue seeking out higher ground. The BBC reported that up to 30 inches of rain is expected to accumulate by Saturday. Though the immediate crash is over, the devastation continues to unfold.