Arden Dragoni and his family lost everything when Hurricane Maria ravaged across Puerto Rico last month. Only a few walls of their wooden home still stand. Their clothes, furniture, other household goods and their old car are ruined.
Dragoni, his wife Sindy, their three children and dog Max are now living at a shelter set up inside a school in this town on Puerto Rico’s northern coast. He supported the family doing construction work, but his employer is out of business, leaving him and his family without a source of income.
They are among the more than 5,000 people who lost their homes and are now living in temporary shelters across the U.S. territory in areas still mostly without electricity or water three weeks after the storm.
The people in the shelters mostly lost their homes to floodwaters, which were particularly bad in communities such as Toa Baja, west of San Juan. Murky water surged through houses and apartments, carrying away appliances and destroying everything inside.
At the Ernestina Bracero Perez School in Toa Baja, there are 73 people of all ages sleeping in the classrooms, using rainwater to shower and passing their time in the courtyard.
Dragoni’s family shares space with another family in one classroom of the school.
The couple took their son Ian to the hospital after a blister appeared behind his ear, since contaminated water has been making some people sick, but the doctor diagnosed him with a common rash.
Agustina Lugo, an elderly woman in delicate health, is another who took refuge at the school after the Sept. 20 storm flooded her home. She said she hadn’t had any contact with relatives until a niece recently located her.
School officials say the school cannot reopen until the displaced flood victims are able to leave. Local officials are trying to find a new shelter for them in the town.
Text from the AP news story, AP PHOTOS: Thousands in Puerto Rico shelters after hurricane, by Ramon Espinosa.
Photos by Ramon Espinosa
Visual artist and Digital Storyteller at The Associated Press