Puerto Rico Floods Kill 3, Damage Homes
CAGUAS, Puerto Rico (AP) _ The governor declared a state of emergency in seven towns in Puerto Rico, where three days of heavy rains and flooding left three dead and hundreds of homes damaged.
The worst hit were poor neighborhoods and towns near the El Yunque rain forest. Those areas would receive aid from a $3 million emergency fund, Gov. Sila Calderon said Saturday.
``(The shantytowns) are usually closest to the rivers. It’s a development problem for Puerto Rico and the poor,″ Calderon said. The towns included Naguabo, Las Piedras, Juncos, Fajardo, Rio Grande, Humacao and Luquillo.
More than 16 inches of rain had fallen since Thursday in some areas, causing rivers to overflow damaging about 500 homes islandwide.
About 20 people were still staying in three shelters set up in schools, while hundreds of others stayed with family or friends.
Authorities on Saturday confirmed the third death from the floods, 24-year-old Elizier Valdes Flores. His body was found in the Gurabo River eight miles from Juncos, where he disappeared Thursday during a rafting trip.
``The pain is great,″ his father, Felix Valdes, said Saturday before identifying his son’s corpse on the river bank in Caguas.
Valdes Flores, his 16-year-old brother Isaac and two friends had gone on a boat trip down the swollen river Thursday. But after they launched the 6-foot raft, it sprung a leak and flipped over, throwing Valdes Flores into the current, said Peter Serrano, one of the two friends.
``We were enjoying the day _ what ignorance,″ said Serrano, 20. ``In a matter of seconds he was pulled under.″
In eastern Humacao, 75-year-old Felipe Santana was rescued from a landslide Thursday night, but died of his injuries less than an hour later, officials said. Another man, 67-year-old Miguel Gotay Sanchez, drowned Thursday when he fell off his roof into the flooding Fajardo River.
By Saturday, power had been restored to all but about 350 subscribers, after the floods left 30,000 without electricity Thursday night, electric company spokeswoman Ada Torres Toro said.
About 25,000 homes were still without water service due to the flooding, Calderon said.
The island’s government on Friday ordered a freeze on the prices of basic goods, including food, construction materials and fuel, to prevent shops from taking advantage of flood victims by driving up prices.