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PR begins flood recovery

With some 3,800 homes in Puerto Rico damaged by floods, mudslides and landslides that struck earlier this month, recovery is just beginning for many people.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | November 28, 2003


"There are a lot of very vulnerable communities."

—Josue Diaz


With some 3,800 homes in Puerto Rico damaged by floods, mudslides and landslides that struck earlier this month, recovery is just beginning for many people.

Virtually every municipality in Puerto Rico was affected, said Josue Diaz, a voluntary agency liaison with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"Sixteen municipalities of 78 municipalities total have received a presidential declaration for individual assistance only," said Diaz. President Bush declared those 16 municipalities eligible for federal disaster assistance Nov. 24.

Areas along the south and northeast coastlines were hardest hit, according to Church World Service (CWS).

CWS reported that some 3,800 homes had been affected, and at least 600 homes had major damage.

After storms began Nov. 10, nearly 800 people were evacuated from their homes.

"There are a lot of very vulnerable communities," explained Diaz. "Farmers have lots of losses. People who live in flood zones in the mountains will face the prospect of future flooding in addition to damage this month. And, in southern Puerto Rico, one community has homes that are literally sinking into the saturated ground."

In addition, the unemployment rate is 19.82 percent in the declared municipalities, pointed out Diaz - higher than Puerto Rico's average of 11.5 percent.

Puerto Rico-based Disaster Response and Recovery Liaison (DRRL) Heriberto Martinez is helping local denominational partners, emergency management officials and the Puerto Rico Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) in initial phases of assessment, as well as with emergency response and long-term planning.

Three CWS emergency shipments have been sent in response to people's needs in Puerto Rico. The shipments include 2,000 CWS "Gift of the Heart" health kits and 600 "Gift of the Heart" baby kits, as well as 1,000 lightweight blankets. The materials were distributed to the most vulnerable families affected by the floods.


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