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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

PDP mayors: Most shelters are not ready for major hurricanes

Puerto Rico Mayors Association President Luis Javier Hernández Ortiz

By The Star Staff

Puerto Rico Mayors Association President Luis Javier Hernández Ortiz charged Wednesday that 85% of the shelters on the island are not ready for the hurricane season.

Hernández Ortiz made the statement in the context of the Hurricane Season Summit, where members of the Popular Democratic Party mayors’ organization, as well as officials from the island Department of Housing, Bureau of Emergency Management and Disaster Administration (NMEAD by its Spanish acronym), 9-1-1 Emergency System, as well as the Caribbean Office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, were in attendance.

Housing Secretary William Rodríguez Rodríguez gave a presentation on shelter inspection and shared a list of shelters that are ready. Hernández Ortiz noted that mayors at the summit presented their needs.

“Every year it is the same story, the same situation,” said Hernández Ortiz, who is the mayor of Villalba. “In my people’s case, I insist that the shelters are not prepared. Already, 10 years later, they are still just as unprepared.”

He maintained that they do not have a generator or functional cisterns or solar panels in operation. In some cases, the generator works on the shelter’s second level, which prevents older people from receiving services.

Hernández Ortiz said the ideal solution is for municipal shelters to be built, but with government money.

“The schools are going to be used as shelters and the schools are not ready,” he said. “Eighty-five percent of the schools that we were able to present to the secretary today are not ready.”

He pointed out that the shelters that have been inspected have gone through the process without the participation of municipal personnel, or were inspected too long ago.

“We ask the Public Buildings Authority and the Department of Education to prioritize schools that are certified as shelters,” he said, insisting that money is available for that purpose.

Hernández Ortiz added that this week a letter detailing the needs related to storm shelters will be sent to Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia, the Housing secretary and NMEAD Commissioner Nino Correa Filomeno so that action can be taken.

“We can’t leave this for September,” he said.

Correa Filomeno pointed out in an aside with the press that the bureau he leads will do its job and that it will address the mayors’ concerns.

“We are taking the pertinent assignments to be able to work on these efforts that they are making,” Correa Filomeno said. “I am going to speak out about this, but I do have to guarantee that regardless … as I have always said, each atmospheric event brings some difficulties, each agency has a challenge, each one has to meet [that challenge] in terms of what is an emergency. We are directly responsible; the plans are presented, they are evaluated, they are analyzed, but these requests that the mayors are making must be acted upon and they must be resolved.”

“You have to pay attention to people regardless of the challenges that there may be,” he added.

Correa Filomeno noted that there are difficulties that date back 10 years, that he has been at the agency for 42 years and that emergencies have always been addressed.

“I still hear about various situations that need to be addressed, corrected,” he said. “That is why we are here.”

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