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Hipólito Serna and Yolanda García in their roofless home in Poza Rica. Hipólito Serna and Yolanda García in their roofless home in Poza Rica.

Hurricane Grace victims await help in Poza Rica, Veracruz

Two days later many residents say they have received no government help

Some Hurricane Grace victims in Poza Rica, Veracruz, are still waiting for government assistance more than two days after the Category 3 hurricane slammed into the Gulf Coast state.

Grace made landfall 20 kilometers north of Tecolutla, located southeast of Poza Rica, early Saturday morning with maximum sustained winds of 205 kmh and gusts to 240. The hurricane claimed eight lives in Veracruz  (seven in state capital Xalapa) and an additional three in Puebla, taking the storm’s death toll to 11. Two of the fatalities in Puebla occurred in Tlaola, while the other occurred in Huachinango. Both municipalities are in the state’s Sierra Norte region.

In Poza Rica, a city of some 200,000 where one person was killed, the homes of some residents of colonias populares (working class neighborhoods) such as La Ceiba, La Nacional and Los Sauces were severely damaged when Grace’s powerful winds swept through.

Two victims were Hipólito Serna Márquez and his wife Yolanda García, residents of Los Sauces whose wooden house was battered by the hurricane and lost its roof. It was the second time that their home was severely damaged by a hurricane after Diana toppled it in 1990.

They told the newspaper El Universal that many other families are in a similar situation and need help, including food and water.

But no assistance has been forthcoming, they said while sitting on their bed, which unlike some other pieces of furniture, they managed to save.

“One feels sad and my wife is sick as well,” Don Hipólito told El Universal through tears. “Where are we going to get something to eat, who’s going to bring us something – nobody,” he said.

“This is the way we’re living now, suffering, but while God gives us life we have to bear it. We have to wait for God to extend his hand to support us, so that we have food for another day; when we don’t lack beans to eat, we’re happy.”

Serna said that he voted for the president, state governor and local mayor currently in office, and now he and his wife are waiting for some support in return.

“If they don’t support us, nothing can be done, we’ll continue suffering. I don’t work because I’m 80 years old,” he said, adding that he hasn’t received the food supplement to his pension since June.

“My wife is the only one who works. As she’s a midwife, sometimes they call her out … and we’re able to eat.”

Hurricane damage in the state of Puebla, where three people were killed.
Hurricane damage in the state of Puebla, where three people were killed.

In the neighborhood of La Ceiba, Enrique López, along with his brothers, tried in vain to save the sheet metal roof of the home he built five years ago.

“When the strongest wind came it lifted all three of us up, we had to let go of the roof and everything flew away, and we ran,” said the 38-year-old food delivery driver.

“We took shelter, we left everything [in my home], we were unable to get anything out. We didn’t expect it [the hurricane] to be so strong,” López said. Asked whether he felt abandoned by authorities, he told El Universal:

“That’s how it is. The authorities aren’t helping anyone, at least around here. They should take a look to see how things are. There are a lot of toppled homes in the Antorcha neighborhood as well, it’s the same there as it is here and no authorities are seen, there’s no help of any kind.”

“We’re the forgotten ones,” one lady told El Universal while walking in the streets of La Ceiba.

According to the Red Cross, however, aid is on the way. The agency said 13 tonnes of humanitarian aid left Mexico City Monday in a tractor-trailer bound for Poza Rica and Tecolutla.

Some states have also launched aid campaigns. Tabasco, Tamaulipas, and Mexico City announced they would be collecting and sending supplies to victims.

Property was also damaged by Grace in other parts of Mexico, including the two Puebla municipalities where fatalities occurred as well as Zacatlán, Chignahuapan, Chinconcuatla and Cuetzalan in the same state.

The Puebla government said that replacement sheet metal roofs and mattresses had been distributed where needed and the delivery of food aid was to continue on Monday. More than 835,000 Federal Electricity Commission customers in Puebla, Veracruz, Hidalgo, Tlaxcala and San Luis Potosí lost power as a result of the strong winds and heavy rain brought by Grace, but the service had been restored in almost half that number of households by Sunday night.

The hurricane, which caused severe flooding in parts of Veracruz, Puebla and some other states, was downgraded as it made its way westward across central Mexico on Saturday afternoon and had largely dissipated by 4:00 p.m.

Remnants of the hurricane coalesced to form Tropical Storm Marty, which was 485 kilometers southwest of the southern tip of Baja California at 3:00 p.m. Monday and not threatening any land, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

With reports from El Universal and Milenio

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