Isaias leaves hundreds of Dominicans homeless

By Maria Montecelos

Hato Mayor, Dominican Republic, Jul 31 (efe-epa).- Hundreds of Dominicans struggled Friday to recover their belongings, a day after heavy flooding caused by now-hurricane Isaias destroyed houses in Hato Mayor, the most affected city in the country.

Isaias, which was a tropical storm when it plowed through Dominican territory, forced the evacuation of 5,210 people across the country and damaged around 1,000 homes, mostly in Hato Mayor, a small agricultural town in the east of Dominican Republic.

“Terrifying” was the word most used in the city on Friday to describe what happened the previous day, when the storm swept the area with maximum sustained winds of 95 kilometers per hour and brought 254 millimeters of rain.

It caused the overflow of the Maguá and Paña-Paña rivers, causing one of the worst floods in memory in the province.

There were no fatalities in the city, thanks in part to the fact that roofs and the upper floors of some houses served as platforms during the flooding, but the damage was widespread.

An elderly Hato Mayor woman, María Alicia Díaz, told EFE her home has been “totally destroyed.”

As she sat at her front door, she described the unexpected “terror” that the storm brought.

“David happened here, George happened here, Maria happened here. But nothing like Isaias. Listen to me, he might have a Biblical name, but Isaias is a terrorist for some things,” she said.

Many neighbors wanted to show the cameras the ruins their homes have become. All homes, without exception, had floors completely covered in mud. Some had even lost walls.

Juan Alberto, whose mother is disabled, was the first to post images of the flooded streets, where the water reached the chest of neighbors, who did not expect Isaias to cause such a catastrophe.

On Friday, families took their belongings outside to dry under the sun with a constant eye on the sky, in case Isaias sent a new downpour.

Meanwhile, in the river and the ravine, families were busy washing the clothes they were able to rescue in the murky waters, without a care for the color of the water or the fact that this was the origin of the flood that left them with nothing.

The Red Cross was conducting a survey of the needs of the population in the area, where at least 3,500 people are going to need help, according to the president of the entity’s subsidiary in Hato Mayor, Enrique Marchena.

Emergency agencies warned Friday that new flooding could occur in the country, although the volume of rain had reduced considerably after Isaias left Dominican territory Thursday night.

The Emergency Operations Center (COE) maintained the maximum alert level in eight provinces since rivers are still swollen.

“The rivers are going to flow swollen now, the population needs to be asked to refrain from crossing them either by car or on foot,” COE director Juan Manuel Méndez said at a press conference.

According to the institution, 131 localities are isolated by the overflow of rivers, streams and ravines; while in several provinces landslides and fallen trees have been registered.

On Thursday, one person died in the city of El Seibo, east of Hato Mayor, due to the fall of an electric cable.

The storm also damaged dozens of electrical circuits, leaving at least 219,000 customers without power. EFE-EPA

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