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Uree Smith (Erika P. Rodríguez para The New York Times)

Saint Thomas - Six days after Hurricane Irma struck this island, Ureen Smith Fahie looked lost on the steps of one of the buildings of the public housing complex Tutu Hi Rise.

"This hurts.I feel like crying from time to time," said the 55-year-old woman.

All around her everything was destroyed. Irma´s fearsome winds, the most powerful cyclone in the Atlantic, broke into her apartment, knocked the wall of the living room down and caused enormous damage within the house that had been her home for 30 years.

On the floor, mountains of debris, shoes, cement and glass, dust and memories pictured the fury of the hurricane that left at least four dead people on her passage through the area.

Irma hit Saint Thomas last Wednesday. In the past days, hundreds of people have left the main of the United States Virgin Islands. Until Monday, only the Puerto Rican government, in collaboration with the Federal Department of Health, had managed to transfer to San Juan about 1,694 people from Saint Martín and Saint Thomas, according to information provided by La Fortaleza.

Thousands more are expected to arrive in Puerto Rico today.

However, until yesterday, authorities had not informed an exact number of how many people lost their homes or how many remain without power or drinking water.

Ureen described as "tornadoes" the winds that left dozens of apartments of the public complex uninhabitable. Fortunately, she said, her six children left the island before the blow of Irma.

An old stove survived the hurricane. This allowed the woman not only to feed herself, but to share food with neighbors - some strangers to her- who had not had a meal.

At the time El Nuevo Día was on the area, Ureen had run out of supplies. "Good question," she replied when asked what she would eat that afternoon.

Amid stories and laments, the woman, who works for the Virgin Islands Police Department, recalled the death of a neighbor during the storm. She said that the young woman sought shelter next to her son in the bathroom. But, as a result of the furious winds, the wall collapsed.

"The wind sucked her. She fell and broke her neck," she said. She could not tell what happened to the boy.

Inaction of the goverment

The woman regretted the lack of help from the authorities. "We are being treated terribly ... We have all suffered serious damage," Ureen said.

"Right now, the government must do something for the elderly. See who needs medication," she noted.

Meanwhile, Kaleem Stephens, 30, said he had not seen any government officials at the Tutu Hi Rise complex, which seems to be the most devastated area of St. Thomas.

The young man said that he stayed in his apartment during the cyclone. "I survived. I grabbed a pipe in the bathroom," he said. His home did not resist Irma's fury, so he had to spend the night in abandoned structures.

Asked whether there were looting or violent incidents on the island, Kaleem answered that "it is time to survive." Although he acknowledged not having witnessed any such event, he said that "you can not stop it, it is survival".

El Nuevo Día covered the east, north and west of the island. At first, the streets looked relatively empty due to the curfew imposed by the local government that extends from 6:00 p.m. until 12:00 p.m. of the following day.

During the six hours of free movement, people from St Thomas crowded the only open supermarket or food distribution centers located in two fire stations, explained Darryl Potter, 33, and volunteer of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency.

Devastation

While on the area, we could to do some sort of damage inventory.

The power structure was destroyed. A solar panel farm located on Donoe Road, which serves as electrical support for St. Thomas, was virtually destroyed, as El Nuevo Día could see.

Countless homes throughout the island collapsed. Some houses on the edge of Magens Bay, St. Thomas' most popular beach, were inaccessible since Wednesday, Potter stated.

The communications towers remained congested, complicating internal and external communications. Drivers lined up their vehicles on the roadside, in the west of the territory, in search of a signal to make calls.

"Getting us back on our feet will not take months, it will take years," Darryl said.

Irma also wreaked havoc on the Crown Bay Marina, north of St. Thomas.

As dozens of people sought to leave the island, Hunter Spencer, native of Virginia, inspected the damage suffered by his 70-foot boat.

The boat, tied to the dock, was his home since last December, when he arrived on the US Virgin Islands with his wife and dog.

However, during the hurricane, a larger boat hit and destroyed the left side of the Run Aweigh. "We do not have a home right now," the man lamented.

Hunter was with Mercy Barham and Kate Sorano, whom he met in St. Thomas and were now helping him to organize the cabin.

Kate stressed that Facebook has been key to communicate with their relatives. In the absence of telephone lines, "I post a message every day so that our relatives know that we are well," said the woman.

While El Nuevo Día was on the devastated areas, a long list of names of residents of the Virgin Islands -whose families and friends were worried about- was broadcast on the radio. "Communicate. Your family is worried," a female voice repeated over and over again.


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