[IMG: Hurricane Georges making landfall on the Dominican Republic September 22, 1998; Credit: Dennis Chesters, Marit Jentoft-Nilsen, Craig Mayhew, and Hal Pierce, Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The Caribbean Hurricane Page

Updates from the Islands
Georges - Puerto Rico

The most recent reports can be found on another page.

Date: Sun, 4 Oct 1998 05:59:50 -0400
From: Jorge L. Belendez (belendez@caribe.net)


Dear Friends and Family:

This is a completely different kind of E-Mail from the ones that I wrote
you during and after hurricane Georges hit Puerto Rico.

This one is to let you know some information that has really broken my
heart, and perhaps encourage you to be part of a "conspiracy" that may even
help to save some lives. Certainly, at the very least, to ease suffering,
hunger and pain.

As things settle somewhat here in San Juan, and as help and aid, both
financial and humanitarian start flowing into the central towns of Puerto
Rico, I took a "larger" look at the news, and called some friends from the
Dominican Republic to see how they were doing.

Here in Puerto Rico, there is help from many sources. First and foremost,
the family. They call each other, and if there is no phone, now that the
roads are open, they go visit. And if need be, they help out to the extent
that they can.

Next in line to lend a hand are the neighbors. All of you know that in
Puerto Rico, as in many, many places on earth, the neighbors are the
resource of first instance for help and succor.

After the immediate neighbor's help, is the community assistance and
support. Help, and joint action, and collaboration is there for clearing
the roads, lending a friendly hand in the neighborhood and helping the
local authorities. I have seen, proudly, ordinary citizens even directing

Next in line to provide help is the municipal local government, the Mayor
of the town or the city. Then comes help from the central Commonwealth
Government and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) and other
Federal Government help.

So sooner or later, hopefully sooner than later, most will even get money
to rebuilt the homes that were lost. Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico there is no
hunger, health care is being provided as needed and there is food and
groceries in the supermarkets, and more on the way, while financial aid in
the form of checks is being given to those in need. The situation if far
from ideal, but the mechanisms to overcome the situation are in place and
one can see light at the end of the tunnel.

That being so, as I said before, I turned my attention to the situation in
the Dominican Republic. A nation that does not have the resources, at ANY
level to mitigate, alleviate, the destruction and the pain caused by this
catastrophic disaster that Hurricane George also caused on that island.

level to mitigate, alleviate, the destruction and the pain caused by this
catastrophic disaster that Hurricane George also caused on that island.
They do not have the infrastructure, they don't even have the required
amount of hospitals to take care of the patients that may now and
eventually need medical care. Even if the sick could afford or physically
get to a hospital.

Let's take a summary look at the Dominican Republic so that you can have an
idea of the general situation BEFORE Hurricane Georges:

(These statistics were taken just now from the CIA World Factbook 1997 page
in the WWW)

Population - a nation of almost 8,000,000 human beings
Annual per capita income - $3,670 (1996 est.)
Unemployment rate: 30% (1996 est.)
Labor force - 2.3 million to 2.6 million (out of 8 million)
Labor force by occupation - AGRICULTURE 50%
Budget - Revenues : $1.8 billion Expenditures: $2.2 billion, including
capital expenditures.
Industries - tourism, sugar processing, ferronickel mining, textiles,
cement, tobacco

AFTER hurricane Georges the Dominican Republic has 250,000 people who are
totally homeless. Maybe even more than 250,000, nobody knows for sure.
Human beings who had a home, albeit modest, are all of a sudden, from one
day to the next, completely homeless. Without money, without help, without

To make matters worst, the agriculture, the source of employment to 50% of
the work force is devastated.

Just imagine that. Just imagine if that would happen to you. And to your
neighbor, and your family and to whole communities.

I can't go on making this E-Mail as long as it should be...

All the details of the need and the tragedy, both short and long term,
facing the Dominican Republic are both interminable and of catastrophic

Just a short list of the many vital needs of the things they need gives you
an idea of the enormity of the problem. This is a very short list my friend
Father Nelson Garcia, SJ gave me over the phone today:

Any over-the-counter medication to ease common cold symptoms.
Any medication to control diarrhea
Anti tetanus
Anti pasasites medication
Trimesulfates (I may have the wrong spelling. Sulfate??? For those alergic
to antibiotics)

Think of the basic things you have in your home medicine cabinet, look at
them, THEY NEED THEM BADLY. People are dying because they don't have some
of the medication we can get over-the-counter in any local drug store. To
them it's a matter of life or death.


So here are the specifics...

Anything we send to the Dominican Republic may or may not get there.

It may be diverted, it may be used by the wrong people or it may be stolen.
So what I propose is the following...

As many of you know, I am part of an association called Agrupacion Catolica
Universitaria. I am secretary/treasurer of the Agrupacion here in Puerto
Rico. (The Agrupacion is a Catholic University Students organization that
helps university students who want to "grow" spiritually while they also
"grow" professionally during their university years.)

I just called a jesuit priest friend of mine (Father Nelson Garcia, S.J.)
that is also a member of the Agrupacion (from his university days, long,
long ago, jajaja) and is "posted for duty" in the Dominican Republic and
coordinated a way to get ANY help you send DIRECTLY to him, from here in
Puerto Rico, to be distributed to the most needy. However he sees fit.

The way to do that is the following: any of the items listed above, OR ANY
SIMILAR ITEM of basic medication you would send to me at my PO Box listed
below, in the name of the Agrupacion or in my name, I will send to him.

I offer my office and my 3 fellow workers to collect everything and send it
via FEDEX (or any other reliable way) to the Dominican Republic. I'll pay
the freight. The address is the following:

Agrupacion Catolica Universitaria
c/o Jorge L. Belendez
PO Box 362073
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00936-2073

You can send anything to me via regular US Mail. Regular US MAIL delivery
here  is now back to it's regular delivery schedules.

If it's easier to send some cash, I will make sure that it's converted into
medication and send the medication to them. That might be easier for some
of you.

It's incredible to conceive, but even if they had the cash, they might, or
do not have, the medication to buy. That is the extent of the dreadful,
terrible and horrifying need they have.

Here is a tip that I plan to do myself here in Puerto Rico. The way the
medication merchandising system works here and in the continental US is
that the manufacturers give FREE samples of different medications to ALL
doctors. Most doctors have all kinds of fresh medicines stored away in a

All of you have a local doctor, or know a local doctor. Just go, tell him
or her the situation and ask them for the samples. Those samples are free
to him, and I'm sure they will probably will be glad to help out. (Maybe
your doctor will give you some names or have his secretary call some other
doctors and start sort of a chain of help...)

And mail them to me (the Agrupacion Catolica Universitaria). I'll make SURE
they get to the needy in the Dominican Republic via Father Nelson Garcia.
Who knows, you may be helping lower the fever of a newborn baby or ease the
pain of an elderly person, or help the wage earner of the family get back
on his feet. In any case, they will thank you for the rest of their lives.
Even if they don't know your name. God knows your name. And your heart will
feel the joy. And that is the important thing.

Another idea. This situation is probably not known to many, many, people
who would LOVE to help. Look at your E-Mail lists and send a copy of this
E-Mail to those you think might be interested in helping out. God only
knows how far this noble, generous, silent effort of help might go...

Another idea^  rewrite, if you wish, this E-Mail and send it to social clubs
like Lions, Rotary, YMCA, Boy Scouts or powerful organizations like AARP,
etc, etc..

Send it to the White House, the UN, the IMF (International Monetary Fund),
send it to local and national newspapers, Congress, and anybody that you
think might help in creating awareness of this potentially catastrophic
disaster known.

Another thing you can do is to talk with your local Priest, Reverend or
Rabbi and propose a second collection with that purpose. Perhaps he can at
the end of the Service or Mass let you explain the situation and that may
raise some money and create awareness of the magnitude of the problem.

The more people know about this situation, the greater the chances that
some help will start flowing soon.

Time is of the essence here.

With the agricultural sector in total ruin, soon the whole country will
start to lack food and then it might be too late for many.

Yet another idea^  many people don't have E-Mail. But many have FAXES. So
FAX a copy to anybody you think might be interested in helping out.

The fear of most epidemiologist is that if help is not prompt, the results
of common illnesses will take epidemic proportions and endanger the lives
of thousands and thousands in the coming months.

To make matters worst the Dominican Republic was in the midst of a Dengue
Fever outbreak before hurricane Georges.

Dengue, also called BREAKBONE FEVER, is an acute, highly infectious,
mosquito-borne hemorrhagic fever that temporarily is completely
incapacitating and may be fatal in the very young and the very old. Besides
fever, the disease is characterized by an extreme pain and stiffness of the
joints (hence the name "breakbone fever"). Dengue is caused by a virus and
may occur in any country where the carrier mosquitoes Aedes aegypti breeds.
The only way to control the disease is the destruction of mosquitoes AND
their breeding places. But given the circumstances in the Dominican

Already I have heard of some deaths from other common sickness that would
not even merit a visit to the doctor here or in the United States. And part
of the problem is also that there are areas where there are dozens, maybe
even hundreds of human corpses and dead animals that constitute another
enormous health hazard.

For unknown reasons the government is not telling the whole story. Today I
spoke with a friend who just yesterday returned to work in Saint Martin
from a visit to relatives in the Dominican Republic and she tells the story
of a water dam that was accidentally opened during the hurricane creating a
flood that completely wiped out two towns. She tells me that there might
be, just from that situation, more that 2,000 persons dead and thousands
homeless. But the government has not said anything about that.

Today is Sunday

Think about how YOU can help all day today.

And see if you can start right away.

Spread the word.

Call your friends. Tell them to call THEIR friends.

These people are in a very bad shape.

And the coming months will tax the meager resources of their government.
And many will die. Even their very prolific agriculture is ruined, so the
livelihood is gone. And with that the ability of the land to feed them.

I can't think of a more pathetic situation.

God bless you all.

Take care,


Date: Sat, 03 Oct 1998 05:03:06 -0300 From: Debra Vela (davela@caribe.net) Subject: Re: Update from San Juan Update from San Juan - Still no power in my little corner of the world, WHICH JUST HAPPENS TO BE IN THE MOST MAJOR, MOST PHOTOGRAPHED TOURIST SECTION OF OLD SAN JUAN!!! Got water back! Really afraid to open my refrigerator. Went to check on my house yesterday and there was black scum leaking out of the bottom of the fridge. We really do not want to go here. But, have a team assembled for Sunday to clean before the power is restored, which may be never. I'll probably have to move. Still camping out at a friend's house who has power and water in Isla Verde. Growing weary of living out of a suitcase. Clients are asking that everyone return to normal on Monday. My dry cleaners are still without power. I guess returning to normal will be very wrinkled and a little smelly. Whoops!! We're trying to keep our spirits up in spite of all the difficulties - i.e., traffic woes, etc., as many of the intersections are still very dangerous because of the Me First drivers. P. D. For all those who have asked, because of client demands, I have not been able to see Sam Juan since Sunday (I'm night-blind and all the road debris really creates obstacles for me, particulary without street lights and all, for going to see her on a daily basis, but she is with a very good family). BUT!!!! Tomorrow, Sam is going with me to help one of my Consultants dig out. I'll have daylight on my side tomorrow and with Sam, we'll be able to help Barbara out of the twilight zone!! Can we really teach a black lab to handle a chain saw? Don't really care - just need puppy kisses!!!! Hope this is a little more upbeat than my earlier xmissions. Got a little low for a while and have more than have appreciated the good wishes. Not to let anyone down, but we still have a while to recoverey. Would love to have electricity! v.
Michele Wucker pointed me to the following press-release. Way to go AA! -Gert | MIAMI, Oct. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- During October American Airlines and | American Eagle are offering special low-cost relief fares to allow friends and | family to fly between the U.S. mainland and areas in Puerto Rico, the | Dominican Republic, Haiti and other islands hard-hit by Hurricane Georges. | | click here for full story.
Date: Fri, 2 Oct 1998 11:44:12 +0100 From: Janet Harris (Silkharris@btinternet.com) Subject: still in London Dear Gert, Glad to see you have kept up the extraordinary work - can't tell you enough how grateful we all are! Finally, spoke with family and friends in Palmas Del Mar - They are all well, but suffered a lot of damage. Still no electricity - but rumors that it will be restored possibly as soon as this weekend. They have phones restored and water - but intermittently. The shopping area is closed (but they are able to go into Humacao for supplies), The Hotel is closed and there was damage to the convention area roof. The Palmas Academy suffered considerable damage ("destroyed" was the term used), but classes are resuming. And those that know Palmas well - may find a smile out of all this sad and gloomy news - the only restaurant open is the Beach Bohio! (The beach hamburger stand that burn down last summer and was rebuilt.) No Palm trees but the Beach Bohio is still there! and they have extended their hours! Gert, I am sorry to report that the friend I had been communicating with earlier in the storm by radio relays - went off the air because he lost the antenna - as well as the sailboat that he and his family had been living on for the past 9 years - it was dry docked in the Palmas Marina! Fortunately, they are safe as they stayed at my house which only suffer water damage as the roof drains could not expel the torrent of rain fast enough. They said they now understand the meaning of "Torrential Rain"! (I think the following sums it up for those of us who find it hard to imagine just what PR has experienced.) One friend reported that they had to spend 6 hours huddled in the bathroom under the staircase as glass and debris swirled around inside of their home. Thanks again for your helpful and informative page. Janet Harris
Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 15:02:57 -0400 From: "Mollitor, Jim (ED&C,MFG)" (jim.mollitor@indsys.ge.com) Subject: Hurricane Aftermath Gert -- Sorry I have been out of touch. I got back online at work, finally. Puerto Rico got hit very hard by Georges. The damage was extensive and almost the whole Island got hit equally. Zinc (galvanized) buildings took quite a beating. Most lost their roofs, many others were destroyed completely. Injuries were remarkably few as the people were well prepared for this. Cement houses generally came through unscathed. Power, water and telephone lines were down everywhere. Telephone poles were snapped in half. In a 1 km stretch of Rte 1, by Caguas, 5 consecutive poles were broken off. Even cement telephone poles were broken in half. Fruit trees were almost all destroyed. Plantain and banana crops 90% gone. Coffee 50% wiped out. The rural farmers will suffer great financial losses. Currently Electricity has been restored to almost all the cities. It may take months to get all the mountain homes energized. Water services are improving. The government had trucks out the day after and have restored most of the main distribution plants. Telephone services have been restored in major cities such as Humacao, San Juan and others. The people are all working together. Generators echo throughout the island. The full recovery of the mountainous areas will be slow and difficult, but the various agencies are putting forward Herculean efforts. Life is beginning to regain a certain normalcy. It is not the same as before but we are establishing new routines and carrying on. Schools are open and almost everyone is back to work. Thanks to everyone for their prayers and good wishes. Jim Mollitor

Rafael Buxeda Díaz (who is doing a superb job with trying to help people out who have not yet gotten into contact with their loved ones [see the Lost&Found Bulletin Board]) reports the following:
ATT is offering a free service of calling people in Puerto Rico from their San Juan office. ATT can be reached at 1.888.725.0300 or 1.888.725.0400, from 8 am to 8 pm EDT. If they are able to make contact in Puerto Rico, and the person can not call the States, they will return a message to you. They are also visiting the shelters, and will place calls to friends and family in the States, and relaying any messages back to people still in shelters. This is a alternative, since they will try to contact the missing person for two days before dropping him their list.

Date: Wed, 30 Sep 1998 17:51:15 -0300 From: María T. Amador (mariter@caribe.net) Subject: Some Pictures of Gerges in Puerto Rico Hello: I finally have the internet back, plus water and electricity. Georges was terrible. And here are some Photos I took to prove it. Take care, Maria Molinari Pictures shown on this page. -Gert
Date: Wed, 30 Sep 1998 10:16:02 +0100 From: Angelika Maiss (Maiss@t-online.de) Subject: Arecibo/Puerto Rico Hi Gert, good news - Arecibo has got electricity and water back! And like everywhere else on the island people helped each other in the passing days. Thank you so much for your great work with this information board! All the best for you! Angelika
Date: Tue, 29 Sep 1998 12:07:12 -0400 From: Susan_Besancon@prb.uscourts.gov Subject: Greetings from San Juan San Juan is returning to normal. The power authority reports that 60% have electricity, and about the same have water. 95% have phone service, although it can still be difficult to call long-distance intra-island. There is a lot of damage to the electrical system infastructure - many downed lines, concrete and wood poles alike snapped in half. Conditions are much worse out on the island - some areas may be months without electricity. Today's San Juan Star reports over 90,000 homes were damaged, 31% of those completely destroyed. There is a shortage of building materials on the island, and generators are impossible to find. Ice is a most precious commodity as so many are still without power. Traffic is returning to its usual mess, as so many traffic lights are out and the police must direct traffic. Most schools are resuming classes this week.
Date: Tue, 29 Sep 1998 09:21:38 -0500 From: Vicki Boice (vboice@firstam.com) Subject: Vieques: General Conditions I spoke with my sister in Santa Maria this morning about conditions on Vieques. They started getting electrical service back on Thursday, but it is not consistent. Their phone service was back yesterday, but that, too, is sporadic. We keep getting cut off in the middle of our conversations. She said that there are workers everywhere working on the lines. The water has started trickling from their faucets this morning, but she doesn't have much hope that it'll stay on for long. Since the hurrican hit, they've been driving to a well to fill up a drum with fresh water since the hurricane hit. She said that though this hurricane took a direct hit on Vieques, it moved over them very quickly and was not nearly as strong as Hugo was. Esperanza was hit a little harder than where my sister lives in Santa Maria, but again, it was nothing like Hugo. This time most of the damage was from wind and rain. The seas did not come up on Esperanza like they did during Hugo. She did say that the beaches on the Caribbean side were somewhat of a mess. She said that sea weed and trash washed up the beach for a good 10 feet. She tried phoning someone in Esperanza and received no answer. She's not sure if it was because they weren't home or if it was because the phones were still out on that part of the island as some of the utility poles in Esperanza had been knocked down during the storm.
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 1998 22:10:10 EDT From: Jrhoads2u@aol.com Subject: *JAYUYA!!!* Dear people: Good news!!! I just spoke with my cousin in Gainesville, FL. who reported that she talked to a friend who traveled to JAYUYA from San Juan.. It took her six hours to get to Jayuya from San Juan, but she made it !!!! Gracias, Maggie Soto!!! (it usually takes approx. takes 2 hours for this trip)...But currently there are a lot of obstacles on the road and mudslides to be cleaned... A good part of my family resides in Jayuya, and it seems like the damage there is pretty much the same as other small towns in the center part of the Island: Lots of structural damage, but they are doing relatively OK. Of course, there's a lot of material loss, but LIFE and LOVE prevailed !!! One of the main bridges there got demolished...but *no reported loss of life *....They are working on getting their electricity, phones and water back. Our friend reported also that one of the main things they need there, is ICE and GENERATORS. A lot of people need to have their medicines, kept cold and ICE is urgently needed. A lot of the "barrios" in Jayuya got hit hard, but the people there have been working like brothers and sisters (even if they are not official family...!!) to get things going... I AM SO PROUD OF "MY" PEOPLE !!! Always so helpful !!! So.....JAYUYA !!!! Sigue adelante !!!! Con FE y sin miedo !!! Mi amor y oraciones van hacia TI, y hacia los tuyos !!!......-ana-
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 1998 20:51:11 -0400 From: "rafa://puerto rico" (rafapr@sprynet.com) Subject: Georges +7 For what it's worth, the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, has general information about conditions in Puerto Rico, and by individual towns, information on road damage and flooded rivers. http://www.prfaa-govpr.org/ Unfortunately, the information is a good 2-3 days old.
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 1998 16:56:13 -0300 From: Ramey School (sdozier@caribe.net) Subject: Aguadilla, Puerto Rico Hello I am from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico and if you have relatives in or around this area and I can be of some help...let me know...I will try to contact them and let their loved ones know how they are if they have been unable to contact them...   W.A. Segarra

Earlier reports have been moved to this webpage.

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