Disasters & Accidents

Mountains of central Puerto Rico pounded by Hurricane Fiona

By Esther Alaejos

Naranjito, Puerto Rico, Sep 21 (EFE).- Hurricane Fiona left a trail of destruction in the communities of Puerto Rico’s central mountains, such as Naranjito, where nine families lost their homes.

As was the case five years ago with Hurricane Maria, the mountains suffered some of the worst damage from Fiona, which made landfall last Sunday on the island’s southwestern coast.

“The house exploded,” a still-shaken Glorimar Rodriguez tells Efe, recounting the fate of the home next door where her two nephews resided before seeking refuge elsewhere.

“Thank God there was nobody in the house,” she says.

Across Naranjito, the rains and winds from Fiona, a minimal Category 1 hurricane, toppled trees and light poles, devastated homes and covered roads with mud.

Neither electricity nor water service has been restored.

The town’s emergency management chief, Jose A. Figueroa, and his crew have been busy clearing debris and aiding affected residents.

In the case of Maria, the biggest impact in Naranjito was from the winds of 250 km/h (155 mph) that the Category 4 storm brought to Puerto Rico. With Fiona, the rain – up to 20 inches (500 mm) in some spots – was the story.

The two rivers that flow though the town, the La Plata and Guadiana, both burst their banks, leaving most of Naranjito under water.

Puerto Rico’s Office of Socioeconomic and Communitarian Development (ODSEC) responded quickly to the emergency, director Thais M. Reyes told Efe.

“We go immediately into the streets to aid our communities, providing them with supplies, providing them personal hygiene articles,” she said.

After distributing food in Naranjito, the ODSEC team moved on to the nearby town of Comerio.

One of the Naranjito residents to receive food and water from the ODSEC team is Esther Robles, an 82-year-old diabetic.

“As the lights still haven’t come back, the water hasn’t come back so one can clean, bathe and so on. And I am also being affected about the insulin, for which I don’t have ice or anywhere to put it,” she says.

After Maria, blamed for nearly 3,000 deaths, people in Naranjito who didn’t have generators or solar panels waited seven months for electricity to be restored. EFE ea/dr

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