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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Senate panel visits Guánica community contending with landslides

The exact cause of landslides in the Alturas de Bélgica neighborhood of Guánica that have sent some residents into a shelter has thus far eluded municipal and commonwealth officials.

By The Star Staff

The Senate Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Ramón “Ramoncito” Ruiz Nieves, visited the Alturas de Bélgica community earlier this week to investigate the government’s efforts to address the situation of more than 300 families threatened by landslides.

“A situation has arisen that affects more than 300 families indirectly, about 80 families [directly] and above all, something very important, the concern of the municipality of Guánica and its honorable mayor, where they have done everything humanly possible,” Ruiz Nieves said Monday. “He has approached government agencies to find out what attention is being paid to the issue of the state’s responsibility regarding what the Alturas de Bélgica community is experiencing.”

Even without having a clear cause for the landslides and despite concern about the composition of the soil since 2002-2003, Guánica Mayor Ismael “Titi” Rodríguez Ramos noted that reports are being made and the terrain is being evaluated to determine the cause of the problem that has gone on for 10 days and continues to worsen.

Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority Executive Vice President of Operations Damarys Santini stressed that they have not found evidence of any broken or open pipe under the ground. But, she said, due to situations such as earthquakes and heavy rains the stability of the terrain has been impacted since 2000.

Both the senator and the Guánica mayor emphasized that their priority is to find safe housing for the most affected families.

“My concern, currently, is the safety of these residents,” Rodríguez Ramos said. “These refugees have already been in the María Luisa McDougall school for more than a week, and I believe that short-term options should be sought, whether it is housing in a public residential [complex] or activating the Section 8 program.”

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