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No roofs, no relief and constant rain: rebuilding Puerto Rico's isolated mountain towns


In Morovis, a small town tucked away in Puerto Rico’s central mountainous region, rains are a near daily occurrence this time of year. But resident Jose “Pepe” Quiñones says he’s never seen anything like the Category 4 storm that ripped through his home late last month.

“I’ve been through storms,” 80-year-old Quiñones said from the hurricane-ravaged house he’d lived in for decades. “But not like this ... This one was tough."

Hurricane Maria's punishing winds and rains tore through Quiñones’s two-story home, snapping in half a mango tree that came toppling down onto the house.

Not long after the storm, his three grandchildren drove to Morovis from different parts of the island to help saw tree limbs down and move debris from the roof.

“They’re the only help I’ve gotten,” Quiñones said of his grandchildren.

A ten minute drive down the road, a torrential downpour forces Maria Virgen La Torre inside her restaurant — or at least what remains of it.

Four days before Hurricane Maria hit, La Torre and her family opened the restaurant made possible with their life’s savings. But when the storm made landfall in Morovis, it packed maximum sustained winds of 155 mph. The winds ripped the walls off the restaurant and flooded the bar, leaving La Torre devastated and without a source of income.

“Today is when we began cleaning. I didn’t want to look at the place,” she says as she mops up some of the rainwater that’s made its way into the building.

La Torre gets her drinking, cooking and bathing water from a waterfall across the street. Easily 50-feet tall or more, the cascading water spills onto the road traffic below, causing cars to swerve and pump their brakes. It's a beautiful sight, but also a reminder of what conditions were like on September 20.

More than two weeks have passed since the hurricane, and La Torre believes she won't be getting any outside help to rebuild. Having burned through her savings to open up the restaurant last month, she's taken out a loan to finance putting it back together.

"[We'll wait.] To see if we can do something," La Torre said.

For people like Quiñones and La Torre, Mother Nature provides no respite. Trying to piece back together their lives after Hurricane Maria amid an onslaught of heavy rains is no easy task.

But Quiñones credits his positive attitude for keeping him alive during the hurricane.

"We have to take what God gives us. We can’t do anything else," Quiñones said.

See related stories from Puerto Rico:
Maria wiped out 80% of Puerto Rico’s crops. This farmer is keeping things in perspective.
After 2 weeks without power in Puerto Rico, eating candy for dinner is the new norm
The US general overseeing Maria relief: 'If I were a Puerto Rican, I wouldn’t be satisfied'

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