- Ronald Ávila-Claudio – @ronaldavilapr
- BBC News World
Sanalee Mercado, a 33-year-old housewife, says her body is still in anguish. She also says that along with that anguish, she feels deep sadness and that she has cried so much that her tears “have dried up.”
The woman is no stranger to any of these emotions. She lives in Puerto Rico with her husband, a 30-year-old mechanic, and her two babies, one 4 years old and the other 2 months old.
And by second time it has been spared from the direct threat of a hurricane.
Last Sunday, when the cyclone Fiona hit the coasts of the US territory as a category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 137 km/h and heavy rains, Sonalee was at home thinking that she would be safe.
He moved to that house, located in a mountainous neighborhood of Aguas Buenas, a small town in the center of Puerto Rico, after having lost everything during the passage of hurricane mariawhich exactly five years ago destroyed much of the island.
On the anniversary of that hurricane that killed nearly 3,000 people and caused billions in damage, you must once again think about how to restart your life.
“With María it was hard. Devastating. But like now, never. The suffering that I had on the day of Hurricane Fiona, with my scared children, I still feel today,” he says in an interview with BBC Mundo.
Like Sonalee, thousands of people have been displaced by the landslides and floods of this cyclone, whose real damage has not yet been calculated.
But for her, numbers are not necessary. This was the night that will remain in her memory forever.
On Sunday night, at about 10:30 local time, an unexpected odyssey began. Outside it was raining cats and dogs and gusts of wind hit the vegetation.
Her husband and the 4-year-old son slept in the room of the house where they live, while she took care of the baby.
“Then I saw one of my two dogs running from side to side and I put the baby in his crib. Suddenly I heard something breaking. I thought it was the winds but the noise was getting louder and when I look out the window with cell phone light I see a landslide“, bill.
“I ran to pick up my husband and asleep he asked me what was wrong. And I told him: ‘se is collapsing the ground above‘. Then the house started shaking.”
Sonalee’s husband got up quickly and also ran into the living room to see what she was telling him. He looked out the window the same way, and after walking away, an electric lighting pole slid down from the mountain and embedded itself where he had stood moments before. The man was uninjured.
“That slide dragged the pole, but we don’t know where it came from. God knows where it came crawling and entered through the window,” says Sonalee.
The couple did not think twice, and together with the children they left the residence and tried to transport themselves in their car to a safe place.
“We got on the bus [camioneta] to go to my mother-in-law’s house, which is the closest, but we couldn’t because of the landslide. And on the other side there were landslides. It was impossible to leave and we returned home, “she detailed.
The next few hours were spent in the car, while outside the hurricane lashed the island. Sonalee recounted his anguish on Facebook. “We need help, I’m with my babies in the car. Help, there is no way out and the collapse is inside my house and the post went through the window,” she said in a message on her social network profile.
His in-laws tried to reach the place and clear the way, but it was dark and the wind made any maneuver impossible without endangering their lives. He contacted the municipality’s Emergency Management Office, but due to the same dangerous situation they could not carry out the rescue.
They didn’t have access [los rescatistas] because I live in the country. The river was coming out, it was impossible. Nope we hadno choice but to shelter in the carSonalee says.
“There were landslides everywhere… it was impossible to get out,” he added.
The next morning several neighbors and friends of her husband cleared the way for them to leave.
a new home
The house is no longer safe, so now the family takes refuge in a half-built home that they planned as a future home. The Puerto Rico government agency that deals with family affairs has given him a crib and will soon give him new electrical appliances.
“We are building a house nearby, the structure is up. We got in here,” he says.
At the moment, although the structure does not have slabs and the windows are covered with wood, it is a temporary sleeping solution. And despite the negative experience of the weekend, Sonalee says that now more than ever she wants to finish building her house.
But this does not mean that she is not “frustrated”, “because we achieve everything with sacrifice”.
Added to that frustration is also the trauma, something that will not only accompany her on the steep path of recovering from a cyclone.
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