Published On: Thu, Oct 29th, 2015

What Patricia left behind for the coastal community of “El Rebalse”

Share This
Tags

Most people think that Mexico may have dodged a bullet from the fury of Hurricane Patricia, while it missed the most heavily populated areas… But in some rural communities such as “El Rebalse” in the coast of Jalisco, destruction and flooding is a reality.

The town square in El Rebalse is now an island amid Hurricane Patricia’s floodwaters, a place for Maria Santana Vazquez and her husband to rest Sunday after wading through water, at times chest deep, trying to return home.

All around, kids swam, a dog paddled and just before noon two high-clearance army transport trucks arrived — the first outside help since Patricia, the hemisphere’s strongest hurricane on record, roared in Friday night and washed out the only paved road into town.

While Mexico for the most part was relieved that the storm caused no fatalities and only marginal damage in the resort of Puerto Vallarta and the principle port of Manzanillo, the sparsely populated zone of Pacific coast where Patricia delivered its fury was only beginning to assess the full damage on Sunday October 25th.

A convoy of soldiers trying to reach the village of Rebalse after hearing reports that it was flooded (timesunion.com)

A convoy of soldiers trying to reach the village of Rebalse after hearing reports that it was flooded (timesunion.com)

President Enrique Pena Nieto said Saturday that 3,000 to 3,500 homes were damaged and about 8,650 acres of farmland were hurt. But that was before anyone from the government arrived in El Rebalse, a town surrounded by banana plantations that Associated Press journalists tried to reach on foot before hitching a ride on the army trucks.
Banana trees as far as the eye could see were snapped in half, and large bunches of the fruit moldered in the intense sun.

Soldiers break up a road washed away by floodwaters, to create a makeshift passage toward the village of Rebalse (timesunion.com)

Soldiers break up a road washed away by floodwaters, to create a makeshift passage toward the village of Rebalse (timesunion.com)

“They’re going to lose a whole year,” Santana’s husband, Artemio Sanmeron Sanchez, said of the plantations where everyone in town made their living.

A man bikes down a street through receding floodwaters, two days after the passage of Hurricane Patricia (timesunion.com)

A man bikes down a street through receding floodwaters, two days after the passage of Hurricane Patricia (timesunion.com)

Then the couple slipped back into the water and waded off. Already they had slogged from the neighboring town, Cihuatlan, where they evacuated. They assumed their home of 15 years was destroyed.

Banana plantation workers with their belongings, standing in a section of missing roadway (timesunion.com)

Banana plantation workers with their belongings, standing in a section of missing roadway (timesunion.com)

In the surrounding Cihuatlan Valley, less than 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the Pacific, between 1,800 and 2,000 people depend directly on agriculture for livelihoods, said Narciso de Jesus Ramirez Rubio, a banana grower and president of the municipal small landowners association. That’s not counting their families.

Army trucks drive through receding floodwaters amidst devastated banana plantations, as they try to reach the village of Rebalse (timesunion.com)

Army trucks drive through receding floodwaters amidst devastated banana plantations, as they try to reach the village of Rebalse (timesunion.com)

He was annoyed that, in his mind, Pena Nieto had played down the damage. He said that only with government help could the owners of the mango and banana plantations hope to get their fields producing again in a year’s time. Work to build levees to contain the nearby Marabasco River began three years ago, but were not completed, he said.
“This is total destruction,” Ramirez said as he watched soldiers work to make a washed out section of road passable. “Agriculture along with tourism is the principle source of employment.”

A man salvages items from his flooded front yard, two days after Hurricane Patricia, in the village of Rebalse (timesunion.com)

A man salvages items from his flooded front yard, two days after Hurricane Patricia, in the village of Rebalse (timesunion.com)

The Mexican navy put out a statement Sunday that it had 5,791 sailors and marines, 192 vehicles, seven aircraft, three vessels and eight mobile kitchens working to reach those affected by the mega-storm.

Patricia made landfall as a powerful Category 5 hurricane, having peaked at sea with winds up to 200 mph then coming ashore Friday evening with winds of 165 mph.

Flooded and destroyed banana plantations surround the village of Rebalse (timesunion.com)

Flooded and destroyed banana plantations surround the village of Rebalse (timesunion.com)

After the wind and rain subsided, the river entered through a gap behind the banana plantation where Martha Gutierrez and her husband had lived and worked for nine years. It was 1:20 a.m. and the family scrambled to another house with a second story. They hadn’t evacuated before the storm because they wanted to care for their animals. In the end, five of their six pigs drowned, and their house was destroyed.
“We have nothing to eat,” Gutierrez said.

Soldiers arrive to check on village residents staying dry on a raised village plaza surrounded by receding flood waters, two days after the passage of Hurricane Patricia, in the village of Rebalse (timesunion.com)

Soldiers arrive to check on village residents staying dry on a raised village plaza surrounded by receding flood waters, two days after the passage of Hurricane Patricia, in the village of Rebalse (timesunion.com)

In El Rebalse, Rosalinda Hernandez Murga stirred a pot of rice soup over a wood fire. Her family and three others took shelter in a well-constructed, two-story house before Patricia struck. Its sloped driveway to an elevated parking area is now a landing area for boats.

All 16 people staying there crowded into a room on the second floor when the storm hit. The fiercest winds lasted about two hours, but strong winds blew for five or six hours shaking the house.

“It felt like it was going to lift off,” Hernandez said.

Around 1 a.m. the water began rising around them. By Sunday it had gone down somewhat, but was still about chest high in the street.

A woman works to chop firewood from a toppled mango tree, as other family members burn brush and debris, two days after the passage of Hurricane Patricia, in Chavarin, Colima. (timesunion.com)

A woman works to chop firewood from a toppled mango tree, as other family members burn brush and debris, two days after the passage of Hurricane Patricia, in Chavarin, Colima. (timesunion.com)

Out on the road leading to El Rebalse, mud-caked and breathing hard, Carmela Jeronimo Avalos heaved a big garbage bag of clothing off her shoulder and onto the pavement. She had just slogged about a mile (2 kilometers) into the flood zone with relatives to salvage what they could.

With the water subsiding to ankle deep, they could haul out clothes, a small television and two electric fans. After catching her breath, Jeronimo turned around and began another trek to her ruined home to see what else could be saved.

 

Source: http://www.timesunion.com

Mexico Travel Care

footer-john-2


Comments

comments

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>