“I fear for my life and my children’s lives”: the lament of those who live on riverbanks when it rains
Santo Domingo, DR
The heavy rains caused by the passage of a trough in the country meant that during these last two days, the inhabitants who are on the banks of the Ozama and Isabela rivers of Greater Santo Domingo were constantly alert to possible floods.
Even though there were no floods from the rivers, the gullies that converge on the area’s coasts overflowed, causing slight flooding. The villagers took early action, given the consequences and effects that could have been caused by the heavy rains.
“I raised the bed, the refrigerator, and the furniture, the dining room, everything to avoid damage. Every time it rains that that gully goes up, you can’t be here,” said Francisco Zorrilla, who has lived near the mouth of the Bonavides gully for six years.
He also said it flooded even if only a little rain fell. “Here when it starts raining, it floods,” he said.
Xiomara, who lives under the Francisco del Rosario Sánchez bridge, known as De la 17, always collects everything she can get her hands on. “I have my clothes there, in a little bag, in case it continues to rain, to keep on collecting and to take them out,” she added.
The rain causes all the garbage to accumulate and covers the gullies. The authorities don’t remove it. “They come and promise to clean up, but they don’t do anything,” Zorrilla said.
The same thing happens with the gully under the 17th Street bridge that discharges into the river. It overflows, causing water to enter the houses. “We put those sandbags there to divert the water pressure from entering the houses,” said Pastor Brigido Brito, president of the neighborhood council in the area.
When it starts raining, or water comes in, those on the riverbanks are allowed to take out the beds, at least, or the refrigerators to bring them into the community church. “Sometimes the civil defense and the firemen take them away and put them in a safe shelter when storms pass,” Brito said.
They have the phone numbers of the authorities who assist them and help them in serious situations. “In that, thanks to God, we don’t have any problems; when people are in danger, they go to church or the authorities. They have often lost their homes, which is what we want to prevent. We also want to prevent losing human lives. Everyone here has small children as in the case of that house that is in the water,” comments the pastor.
On the other hand, when they feel that the rain is continuing, they get restless for fear of losing what little they have built. “Every time that rain comes, I’m crazy to get out of there, but I don’t leave my house alone,” said Zorilla.
“That house has leaks, I put in a canteen and buckets, that house is no good, that house is almost falling, I live on the riverbank. The floor below is almost collapsing. Downstairs there is no land. I’m afraid that the floor is going to fall apart,” he said.
Xiomara Tejeda also lives in torment. “I fear for my life and my children and my husband that the same thing will happen as the other time, that the last time when the storm Laura swept my children away because the current of the river was so strong that the house collapsed,” she explained.
“My brother and husband had to come and fix it. My family contributed nails and zinc so that we could fix the house again. We were at a neighbor’s house that lent us money, and since we couldn’t pay it back because my husband isn’t working right now, we had to fix the house and come back again,” Tejeda added.
Some long to leave the place. Zorrilla, who lives with his wife and children “as God wills,” dreams of getting out of there. “I would like them to take me out of here now (…), to see what they are going to do with one by one to get out of here with all my family.
Just as Xiomara says, “I dream about that, I hope that the government will fulfill my dream of getting out of here, because I don’t sleep, at night I can’t sleep thinking about my children, every time any rain leaks through the zinc roof.