Yauco. A year after the 6.4 earthquake, tranquility has not returned to the towns of the southwest, where incessant earthquakes keep residents awake, while mayors denounce that their municipalities have been forgotten by the central government and the Junta of Fiscal Supervision (JSF).
The mayors, Ángel “Luiggy” Torres Ortiz, from Yauco and Gregory Gonsález Souchet, from Peñuelas, who spent the night with the refugees in the camps, reported to Primera Hora that the anxiety and fear that another strong earthquake is palpable among the people impact their communities, when they have not yet recovered from the blow they received last year.
In Yauco, some thirteen families still live under awnings and in makeshift camps, as their residences were located in a geological fault that extends through the Ciénega, Lima, La Joya and Media Quijá sectors, in the Barinas neighborhood.
The mayor said that next February he hopes to begin the public auction for the construction of some 30 earthquake-resistant houses in the Alturas de Barinas Urbanization where these families would be relocated. The project, he detailed, would be paid for through a matching of funds, with a surplus of $ 1.2 million that the municipality achieved in the middle of the bankruptcy this year and with the aid that FEMA (Federal Agency for Emergency Management) granted to families. affected.
“These families not only lost their homes, but on the land where their homes are, they cannot rebuild because they were declared unsafe by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources,” said Torres Ortiz, to explain that the land is located in an area mountainous, which borders Guánica on one side and the Indios de Guayanilla neighborhood, on the other and are part of the epicenter of the earthquake.
In terms of the government and the Board, the New Progressive mayor ruled that in times of disaster, not everything can be seen in dollars and cents. “We still have battles with the State Board and Housing to assist families that still live in camps, that not everything has to be allocations of funds for demolition of structures,” he said.
“In terms of building new homes, he said that FEMA allocations have been minimal at times and at other times, the maximum they give is not enough for families to rehabilitate their homes. “We always understood that what is the demolition of structures and help to rehabilitate homes should go hand in hand with the allocations of State funds and that did not happen. They gave us to demolish houses, but to rehabilitate structures or economic development, no, “he summarized.
He also said that the Mayor’s Office, which suffered serious damage, like other buildings in the town center, continues to operate from a wagon in the parking lot of the Raúl “Pipote” Morales Coliseum, where other municipal offices also operate.
He explained that of the 14 schools that Yauco has, three were declared unsafe and one must be demolished, while two others suffered partial damage.
– None have been repaired?
“Not a single one,” said the mayor, adding that none of the historic buildings either, “has been restored.”
“There are schools that have not yet been touched and that will affect the children emotionally and academically,” said Torres Ortiz, who spent the night for four months with his wife, Arlene Roig and their young son Julián, in one of the wagons they located in the Coliseum.
“For us as a family it was a difficult process to be able to live what our fellow townspeople were suffering when losing their homes that with many sacrifices they could raise them throughout their lives and apart from that, the uncertainty that they continued to tremble,” said the mayor. He added that people began to get emotionally affected since the tremors began on December 28, 2019.
“We hope that now one year after this disaster is not forgotten that we must continue working to help these people, start our economy and our students,” he said.
For his part, the mayor of Peñuelas also claimed that “there are still people” in the municipality who have not received aid from either the central government or FEMA.
“I can summarize all the handling of the emergency by the central government in one word: disastrous,” said the popular mayor.
“There are many people sleeping in the armchairs in the rooms because it has continued to shake and noises are heard at night. It trembles constantly and the earth is as if it is roaring. People are waiting like the first day. We are seeing as if last year’s pattern of smaller tremors in December and the larger one in January is repeating. People are with that in mind, ”said González Souchet.
“I am still waiting for the Housing Department to sign the contracts and proceed with the repair of the affected homes,” he indicated to detail that over 500 houses were marked in red (total loss) and another 1,200 in yellow (in need of repair). He said that the damage to the municipal structures was few and that only the old Market Square should be demolished. “The COR-3 that was supposed to give us a hand and what it has done is to delay the process with more bureaucracy and slower procedures,” he added.
Regarding the experience of spending the night with the refugees, he said that initially it was strong “because our feelings were on the surface and we were all living the same experience together.”
“There were not some who were well and others were calmer, we were all in the same boat. At the same time, inside the bad, the good thing is that I was able to be with the people and those same words of support that they gave us were the ones that allowed us to move forward, ”said Gonsález Souchet.
He recalled that in the early mornings when he trembled “everyone got up nervous to the expectation of what might happen, some cried and even shouted.”
“I remember that when the Housing Department set up the tents for the bedridden overnight there was an episode of heavy rain and together with two or three employees and some volunteers, in the rain we had to put awnings on the tents because they were full of holes and people were getting wet inside, ”said the Peñolano mayor.
That same night, he said, “we went to the Guánica refuge because the camp was flooded with those same rains and together with the municipal emergency management director we brought him water pumps to lower the flooding a bit.”