Sunday, September 24, 2017

Yo soy Boricua. I am from Puerto Rico


SFGate |  One person in Arecibo died after being swept away by rising water. Officials believe there are probably others they haven't yet been able to confirm.

At the intersection of Routes 2 and 1o in Arecibo, employees of the Gulf Express gas station and their families - about 20 people in all - were hard at work Saturday. Their boots and sneakers were caked with mud because there is mud everywhere: On their pants and shirts, in their cars and on the walls of their homes. The makeshift cleanup crew was using brooms to sweep out the grayish brown slop that lay two or three inches thick inside.

After Maria blew threw the city, taking down trees and power lines, the flash floods came.
"The water had to be at least six, maybe seven feet high," said Nelson Rodriguez, an employee at the Gulf Express. "It took everything. All the medicine in the pharmacy, all the food, it's gone."

Every home and business in this part of Arecibo was affected by the flooding. Two blocks away from the gas station, Eduardo Carraquillo, 45, helped his father, Ismael Freytes, 69, clean the mud out of their yellow, first-floor apartment. Inside, a film, rising six feet high on the walls, marked where water stagnated for much of a full day.

"The water just pushed through the door, as if it had been left open," Carraquillo said. "We all evacuated the day after the storm, because we were warned about the flash flood that might come. Everyone left, just to be safe, except for two older men that lived a few houses away. They just didn't want to leave. When we came back, we found out the flood had killed them right there in that apartment."

Some Puerto Rico officials believe it could be months before the island recovers and that it will be at least a year before some sense of normalcy returns.

Officials estimate it will take three weeks for hospitals to regain power, and about six months for the rest of the island to have electricity. By Saturday, 25 percent of the population had telecommunications connections.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced efforts to centralize medical care and shelters for the elderly. He also plans to distribute 250 satellite phones among mayors to facilitate communication. He said he urged the mayors to develop a "buddy system" with other local officials.

Yulín, San Juan's mayor, said she has never seen such devastation, but she also said she has never seen such determination to make it. She described a phrase she keeps hearing from residents: "Yo soy Boricua. I am from Puerto Rico."