The Atlanta Constitution from Atlanta, Georgia on September 20, 1989 · 10
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The Atlanta Constitution from Atlanta, Georgia · 10

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Atlanta, Georgia
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Wednesday, September 20, 1989
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10
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HH A-10 Ebt Atlanta AND CONSTTimON WED., SEFTEMBM 20, 1 989 HURRICANE HUGO: DESTRUCTION IN PUERTO RICO Islands Fight Looting During Cleanup Force of Storm Leaves Thousands Without Homes, Electricity, Water From Staff and Wire Reports SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico National Guardsmen with automatic rifles patrolled San Juan on Tuesday to stop looting in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo, which left tens of thousands homeless, with little water and no electricity. In Washington, Jose Martinez, director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, said, "We can confirm 17 deaths," after he talked with an aide to Puerto Rico's governor. That would bring the storm's Caribbean death toll to 40. Figures on the injured were not available, but nearly 100 people in the San Juan area asked rescue squads to evacuate those hurt in the first few hours after the storm hit early Monday, said Benito Colon, deputy secretary of health for the emergency medical system. In St Croix in the Virgin Islands, there were reports that law enforcement had collapsed and that there was heavy looting. Ham radio operators were told some prisoners had escaped from a damaged jail, probably in Christiansted, according to Norbert Chwat of the Emergency Communications Service Radio Club in Queens, N.Y. With shopping centers in Christiansted, the island's largest town, jammed with looters, and reports of gangs moving through the streets with rifles, frightened tourists begged for help fearful that they might be robbed or worse by the homeless mob. "Please get us help. There's no food, there's no water, there's no electricity. There are people walking through the streets with rifles, looting. We think we may be next," said Rick Green of New York, a vacationing journalist He was shaking. Green endured the ravages of Hugo alongside his wife, who is five months pregnant Eyewitnesses said police were joining in the looting and soldiers were idly watching. "There is no control. There is anarchy in town," said Bob Reiss, 32, of Dallas, an American Airlines dispatcher on vacation. A British navy frigate, Alacrity, landed 16 Royal Marines late Monday on the island of Montserrat to clear the airport, and 100 more were sent Tuesday to help restore communications and health facilities. Cmdr. Colin Ferbrache, Alacrity's commanding officer, was interviewed by radio by Associated Press Network News, and said, "The damage it's absolutely devastating. The locals are calling it 'trashed.' And I think that's a pretty good summation of it." Six people were killed on Montserrat, a British island with a population of 12,000 that was cut off from the outside world by the storm. Queen Elizabeth II sent sympathy messages to leaders of Britain's Caribbean territories and other nations struck by Hugo, Buckingham Palace said. In Puerto Rico, Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon said, "This is a tragedy of major proportions" and losses WILLIAM BERRYStatf Planes are stacked Tuesday on top of each other after winds from Hurricane Hugo hit Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. from the storm would amount to "hundreds of millions of dollars At least 50,000 people lost their homes or had them severely damaged." Water in some areas was reported cut off or in short supply, with residents of poorer communities outside San Juan using buckets to bathe or store drinking supplies. The governor initially had estimated late Monday that 27,900 people had been left homeless. The Coast Guard said a survey from helicopters showed that 80 percent of the roofs were blown off houses between San Juan and Fajardo, 25 miles to the east. Mr. Hernandez Colon said he would ask the federal government to declare the island, a U.S. commonwealth, a disaster area and seek immediate relief aid. President Bush issued a statement expressing "concern and sympathy" for hurricane victims. Spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said "all necessary federal resources will be quickly mobilized to help the people of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico recover from this disaster." Maria Dolores Oronoz, spokeswoman for Mr. Hernandez Colon, said the government called out 2,500 National Guardsmen to help police with rescue and security. Guardsmen with automatic rifles were riding with police in their cruisers. Much of the looting occurred at the height of the storm. Police spokesman Tony Santiago said 40 businesses had reported looting. Police arrested 30 people on looting charges, he said. Civil Defense spokeswoman Cizanette Rivera said she had no island-by-island breakdown of the deaths. Previous reports said that in addition to the six killed on Montserrat, five died on the French island of Guadeloupe and two on Antigua. Hugo, the most powerful storm to hit the northeastern Caribbean in a decade, cut power to more than half Puerto Rico's 3.3 million people, officials said Tuesday. Officials said it would take at least three days to restore electricity. Bright white-and-red tape marked downed wires to make them easier for repair workers to spot. Stores, offices and schools remained closed. A few neighborhoods of San Juan, the capital city of 945,000, were virtually untouched. In most, windows of houses, businesses and cars were shattered. In some sections, furniture dangled from floors where walls had been blown away. Tree branches, shattered glass and metal sheeting littered the streets of the capital. Bulldozers worked to clear them Tuesday. Damage to Puerto Rico's electricity network was estimated at $20 million, said Jose A. Del Valle, executive director of the Puerto Rico Electrical Power Co. He said 35 of the island's 78 municipalities had no electricity Tuesday. Mr. Del Valle said the company expected to have service completely restored today to San Juan and to 80 percent of the island by the weekend. Damage to San Juan's Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, which remained closed Tuesday, also was estimated at $20 million. The governor said two islands, Vieques and Cule-bra, were the most severely affected areas. 'Thank God I Still Have My Children!' Puerto Rican Family Survives Hugo's Wrath By Ann-Marie O'Connor Journal Constitution Correspondent SAN ISIDRO, Puerto Rico -The Flores family huddled on their flooded dining-room floor during powerful Hurricane Hugo, listening in fear as the 140 mph winds ripped the roof off their house. By the time the wind died down Monday afternoon, the top story of their house had been torn away. "Thank God we slept downstairs. Since I don't weigh much, the hurricane would have carried me right off," said skinny 10-year-old Gabriel Flores. "Everything is ruined," said his mother, Isabel, as she sifted through scattered furniture and clothes. "Thank God I still have my children," she added, reaching out to hug her daughter, Crician, a 13-year-old with long black braids. The view from the second story was a picture of the legacy of destruction left by Hurricane Hugo in the coastal towns it ripped through. For miles around, homes in the largely working-class village near San Juan were without roofs or were otherwise severely damaged. Only one wall of the neighborhood Protestant church was left standing. "It's a mess," said the Rev. Angel Ortiz, who is helping the Flores family salvage what's left of their belongings. "But we're all still alive. That's the important thing." Some San Isidro residents used boats to reach relatives who had been stranded in their homes by flooding. Sections of sheet metal roofing were scattered throughout the neighborhood, with a jumbled mixture of toys, pots and pans and furniture. People tried to gather up their possessions quickly because thieves were roaming the neighborhoods. Luciano Rosario and a neighbor waded into Mf. Rosario's flooded yard with a rope to try to retrieve a piece of his roof. "We lost everything! Everything!" said Mr. Rosario's wife. Auria Feliciana, as tears ran down hface' j 1 jtt Ham Radio Operators Keep Link With Islands By Ben Smith III Staff Writer While some classmates partied and soaked up late summer sunshine, more than 10 Georgia Tech ham radio operators spent the end of their vacations trying to locate people swamped by Hurricane Hugo in the Caribbean. Fall quarter starts today, but some members of the Georgia Tech Amateur Radio Club said they might skip classes to maintain radio contact that could represent the only link between metro Atlantans and friends and relatives in the hurricane's path. As the storm wiped out telephone lines across the Bahamas, ham radio operators relayed reports of injuries and damage from the West Indies and Puerto Rico, as well helped locate survivors of the killer storm. For club members, mostly Georgia Tech students, Hugo has transformed a hobby into a full-time job. "We have some experience in emergency communication but we're not formally trained," said Jeffry A Jones outside the club's tiny radio room in the basement of WILLIAM BERRYStaff Gabriel Flores stands inside what is left of his home in San Isidro, Puerto Rico, while members of his family start cleaning up Tuesday after Hurricane Hugo ripped the top floor off their two-story house. A half-submerged car was the only trace of one home that had vanished during the storm. "My friend drove right by his house today when he went home," said Gil Flores, 21. "He didn't even notice at first that it was completely gone." Angel Gabriel, an unemployed mechanic, ran to a neighbor's house during the hurricane when hip-deep water began flowing thorugh his home. Since club members began monitoring the storm, they have had 120 phone calls from families seeking to locate relatives. the electrical engineering building. "We're not totally organized, I'm afraid." As a class bell rang, Mr. Jones and Scott Dorsey took over hall space outside the club office and set up old combination radio transmitters and receivers known as transceivers from the "junk bin" on a borrowed table. Since club members began monitoring the storm Sunday night, they have received up to 120 phone calls from families seeking to locate relatives in the Caribbean. As of Tuesday night, they had found 60, they said. The club also helped get clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration for a British pilot to fly reconnaissance over islands hardest hit by the storm. Club members have heard from island radio operators accounts of up to 19 deaths and massive home destruction in Montserrat in the West Indies and looting in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. "One girl said people are up on their rooftops with guns," said Chris Tyberski, a Georgia Tech alumnus who visited the radio room Tuesday. His friend Douglas Armstrong wanted to find out the condition of the St. Croix Airport so he could charter a flight to reach his parents there. Club members said they've been working almost around the clock since Sunday night, ordering pizza and taking time out to register for classes. "I wouldn't be surprised if my grades disappear," said Mr. Dorsey. "But I've got enough free electives to last me a lifetime." A bearded, bespectacled college senior, Mr. Dorsey said this kind of effort belies the typical image of young amateur radio operators. "I'd like to say we're a bunch of nerds that hang out in a basement, but we're not," he said. "We're rebels, we're strange people that actually go out there and do things." Local Red Cross Gears Up for Hurricane Relief When he came back the next day, a flooded stream was rolling over the spot where his house had been, and all that was left of his few possessions were some of his clothes sticking to a tree. Like many San Isidro residents, Mr. Gabriel did not take the hurricane warning seriously enough to go to a shelter. "My house has held up during many storms," he said. "I just didn't think this would happen." By Pat Burson StaffWrihr As Hugo raged hundreds of miles away in the Caribbean, volunteers from the metro Atlanta chapter of the American Red Cross activated their Disaster Field Supply Center at Fort Gillem in Forest Park on Tuesday in an effort to provide needed supplies to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and other islands. Relief efforts were hampered, however, because many airports on the islands, including the one in San Juan, Puerto Rico, remained closed. During the day, volunteers loaded 1,800 cots and 5,000 blankets into a tractor-trailer bound for McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, from which the much-needed supplies can be airlifted into the island territory. In addition, two Red Cross workers with emergency community services left for Savannah on Tuesday to serve as a "watch team" to determine how many open shelters or mass-feeding facilities are needed, according to Anne Willcox, director of external communications for the local Red Cross chapter. In addition to efforts here, field supply centers in Lancaster, Pa.; Waterloo, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio; and New York City collected an initial 15,000 additional cots, blankets and comfort kits to send to Puerto Rico, and about 50 Red Cross workers, carrying additional supplies, were awaiting flights to the damaged San Juan Airport, Miss Willcox said. The Red Cross is asking people who want to help to make financial contributions instead of food or cloth: ing. "A check or money order earmarked for hurricane disaster relief can best be used to help victims to help their immediate needs," Miss Willcox said. Contributions may be sent to the local Red Cross chapter, or donors may call a national toll-free number, 1-800-453-9000. The Red Cross also will accept disaster welfare inquiries from people who want to find out about family members in the affected area. However, callers should be prepared to wait 48 to 72 hours for word of friends and relatives because of the damaged communication facilities in Puerto Rico. "We're asking that they call the Red Cross during business hours 8.15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and personnel will take their name and family member's name, and as soon as we can start making those communications, we will try to call," Miss Willcox said. Contributions may be given locally at Red Cross headquarters, 1925 Monroe Drive N.E., 30324. The phone number is 8B1-9800. A special emergency telephone number (212) 473-4788 has been set up by the Department of Puerto Rican Community Affairs in the United States, a Manhattan office run by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, for people seeking information about relatives on thejsland. g

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