August 12, 2020

‘We Lost All Our Belongings in the Mud’

Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in the Dominican Republic is assisting hundreds of families affected by Hurricane Isaias, which struck the island on July 30, 2020. The storm brought rains that overflowed rivers, drenching 14 provinces and affecting more than 5,500 persons and damaging 1,000 homes.

“Most of the damage was caused in the Hato Mayor province, in the Gualey community, in the southeastern region,” said Roberto Matos, ADRA Dominican Republic director, who toured many affected communities the day after Isaias hit the island.

Hato Mayor is no stranger to hurricanes, having been devastated by Irma and Maria in 2017.

“So many people in Hato Mayor expressed how this time the flooding was worse, almost reaching the ceiling,” Matos said. “This comes at a time when the country is struggling economically because of the pandemic.”

Altagracia Zorrilla said she is still in shock at how it all happened when Isaias hit. “We didn’t have time to pick up anything, and the water came in so fast that we had to leave quickly,” she said. “The next day when we returned, we saw the disaster in my house. One of the walls in my house had fallen, and all my belongings had been swept away by the flooding.” Zorrilla is among the beneficiaries of ADRA’s response in Hato Mayor.

Wilberto Rodríguez from Hato Mayor said he and his family had suffered from flooding before, but none like Hurricane Isaias. “The water rose to such a height that we had never seen before,” he said. “We lost all our belongings—beds, clothes, food, and everything was covered in mud.”

ADRA is providing 409 box-spring beds to 385 of the most affected families in Hato Mayor. “Each registered family will be able to collect their bed in a nearby location,” Matos said. The affected families have also received food and clothing.

Paulino Puello, president of the Adventist Church in the Dominican Republic, reported that 159 church-member families lost their belongings in the flooding. “Immediately after the storm, church members from the southeast region provided warm meals to hundreds of persons for three straight days,” Puello said. The union and conferences throughout the island sent funds to assist the Adventist families and those in the affected communities. Several churches were flooded and will be further assessed for structural damage, he said.

“We continue to pray for the families who, even though they lost everything, are keeping strong in the faith,” Puello said.

The original version of this story was posted by Inter-American Division news.