As the sun spilled over the storm-stricken mountains of Puerto Rico, all Pedro Labayen could see from his home in Utuado was a river. Hurricane Maria had flooded Avenida Esteves, the town’s main avenue, leaving behind potholes, fallen electric poles and floating cars.
Flash floods destroyed five bridges across the municipality. Furious winds and rains ripped the roofs off over five hundred homes. Four hundred people sheltered in government refuges. Landslides of sandy, volcanic soil destroyed mountain roads.
Behind Labayen’s home, three elderly bedridden sisters perished under an avalanche of mud.
But Labayen, 69, didn’t know yet the proportions of death and destruction that surrounded him. The monstrous 2017 storm had cut off Utuado from the rest of the island and the world.
Labayen was not accustomed to the tsunami of silence. An amateur radio operator for more than 50 years, he had connected daily with people as far as Siberia and India from his home in the Cordillera Central, the sierra that fractures the island in half.
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