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Cleanup on Puerto Rico is slow and difficult after Hurricane Fiona

Floodwaters in many Puerto Rico neighborhoods, like Toaville, are still around two days after Hurricane Fiona crawled across the island.
Greg Allen
/
NPR
Floodwaters in many Puerto Rico neighborhoods, like Toaville, are still around two days after Hurricane Fiona crawled across the island.

TOA BAJA, Puerto Rico — In this area just west of San Juan, the cleanup from Hurricane Fiona is well underway.

Five years, ago this part of town flooded badly when Hurricane Maria hit and it got swamped again by Fiona. The floodwaters have receded in most neighborhoods. People were dragging water-logged sofas, mattresses and other goods out to the street. City workers were using heavy equipment and dump trucks to collect the sloppy mess.

Yesenio Nazario was part of a crew going house-to-house, assessing the damage. The social worker was also handing out water and offering other services. In this area she says, the first floor of every house was flooded. She points down the street. "The La Plata river is right behind the Catholic Church. As soon as the river rises, it always floods here."

Not far away, Christy Torres Melendez and some friends were sweeping the mud out of her nutrition shop. "After Hurricane Maria, no one really wanted this building, "she says. "It was absolutely destroyed. I got it and I was still fixing it up when Hurricane Fiona arrived. But you see what happened."

In a nearby neighborhood, Toaville, several inches of floodwater were still in the streets two days after Fiona passed through. Electricity and running water are still out here and some residents are discouraged.

Gilbert Hernandez is a Navy veteran who says he fought for months with his insurance company to recover money to fix up his house after Hurricane Maria. He doesn't want to go through that again. He's planning to move and let the mortgage company take his home. "I have to. Who wants to live here now?" And he says many of his neighbors are thinking about leaving as well.

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The interior of Gilbert Hernandez's house in Toaville is filled with water. After fighting with his insurance company to fix the damage after Hurricane Maria five years ago, he's not willing to do that again.
Greg Allen / NPR
/
NPR
The interior of Gilbert Hernandez's house in Toaville is filled with water. After fighting with his insurance company to fix the damage after Hurricane Maria five years ago, he's not willing to do that again.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.