Puerto Rico recovery: Visiting the hardest-hit area from December earthquake

Puerto Rico Recovery

Editor’s Note: News 8 WROC reporter Josh Navarro is in Puerto Rico to witness the recovery efforts from devastating earthquakes first hand.

YAUCO, PUERTO RICO (WROC) – We were traveling to Yauco, Puerto Rico. It is the southwestern part of the island, a town north of Guanica, the hardest-hit towns after the December 28 earthquake.

It is important to note that the capital city of San Juan, along with the cities in the northern part like Bayamon, Carolina, and Guaynabo, weren’t impacted as severely as its southern cities. The hustle and bustle seemed to be as usual. 

MORE | Puerto Rico recovery: Off the plane and straight to the San Juan protest

But as we started to make the route, we were entering the municipality of Ponce. Off the highway, you can see tents where people have been living. A family of four, who make a living off fishing told us their home is unlivable and had to flee to this area to camp out.

They haven’t been able to go out to sea and make a living they are used to doing. Living from their white van, the family have not lost their faith through all of this. They called their little area, ‘Refugio Cristo Te Levanta,’ which means, ‘Christ Will Lift You Up Refuge.’ There were seven more tents in that area and more across the highway. 

Some of the items donated from Wanda Martinez-Johncox’s relief drive in Rochester were handed out Friday. They needed aspirin, mosquito repellent candles, tents, and gas cans to help cook their food. Martinez-Johncox promised to come back and give it to them after we went to other areas.

The money collected from this drive helped out in a big way. The family told us their landlord still wanted to charge rent to them next week, even though they lost everything. They didn’t know where the money was going to come from since the quakes affected their workflow. 

The Fishermen family smiled as if they won the lottery when the items that they needed were given. Before we left, the family wanted to pray, as a “thank you” for the help. 

In Los Cafetales, a neighborhood up on the hill of Yauco, homes are crumbled. The municipality has already come and inspected homes. Many of them have been labeled in a red paper that reads “not safe” and is set to be demolished. People have set up tarps and tents in a nearby park.

You could see some cooking, playing outside and clothes hanging from a clothesline inside their tents. They don’t know when the tremors will stop.

One woman who has been living outside of her home described a “night of terror” after the first big earthquake that hit. She feared a house next to her would fall on hers. Although on this day, there were hardly any. People have come by regularly and check on them if they need anything. 

On the way back, we stopped and grabbed gas cans, more mosquito repellent candles, and chairs for the fishermen family. When we got there, other people that looked from a church were also making the rounds. A portion of the donations collected from Rochester was given to this family to pay at least next month’s rent. The father’s face lighted up as if a significant weight on his shoulders was taken off.

The family was camera shy. Even though we may not hear them, see their emotions, but their story will be told. It is a glimpse of what many families may be going through. 

As the day ended, heavy rain was in the forecast for the night.

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