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Daily News - 26 September 1998

Death toll at 166
The Dominican government estimated in US$1,200 million losses (approx. RD$18,000 million) caused by Hurricane Georges in the DR. As of Friday, 25 September, the death toll was 166. The Minister of the Armed Forces said that the 166 toll of deaths occurred 100 victims in the South, 34 in the East, 23 in the central Cibao and nine in the National District. More than 200,000 persons are provisionally lodged in 693 shelters.
There are 250,000 persons homeless, 551 persons injured and 90 persons missing.
San Juan de la Maguana, a bread basket area in the southwest, was one of the most affected by waters caused by the natural overflowing of thousands of tons of waters from the Sabaneta Dam that flooded in to the Mesopotamia town.
Ministry of Public Works brigades are working on restoring land communication to the southwestern provinces of Barahona, Pedernales, Baoruco and Independencia. where the bridges over Yaque del Sur River were tumbled by the force of waters flowing from regional dams.
Barahona and frontier provinces are not communicated by land with Santo Domingo because of the waters that caused major damages to bridges. To make it across, residents use boats. In Barahona, 27 persons were reported dead, primarily from overflowing of rivers, according to a report in El Siglo. Several aqueducts were destroyed, causing potable water distribution problems. The Ministry of Public Works said that heavy machinery is already in the area trying to rehabilitate the bridges.
70% of Dominican bridges suffered considerable damage. Minister of Public Works Diandino Peña said that six bridges in the south were affected, three in the East and two in the North East. He said that by next week, the Ministry would have an estimate of damages caused to the national ground transportation network.

Curfew soon to go
President Leonel Fernández reduced to eight hours the curfew on Friday and eliminated the curfew in Puerto Plata and Santiago yesterday. The curfew in Santo Domingo was upped to 10 pm yesterday and it could be eliminated tonight. While power in most sectors has not been restored after three days of staying at home, the populace is ready to get out. Most bars and restaurants have back up power plants so the lack of public electricity is not a major problem.

Losses to agriculture
The Dominican Agribusiness Council (JAD) informed that only 50% of the sugar crop of government and private producers did not suffer the devastating effects of Georges. Several government sugar mills lost their roofs. The government sugar industry was in dire needs of repairs anyway and is expected to be privatized within the next few months.
The JAD estimates losses to agriculture in general at RD$8,000 million. The Ministry of Agriculture estimated losses at RD$4,000 million. Early reports indicate that 80% of crops are damaged.

Balaguer is okay
Contrary to rumors that circulated shortly after the Hurricane, former President Joaquín Balaguer enjoys good health, is eating well and spoke to reporters about the hurricane yesterday. The President suffered a fall at his home and was taken to the Abel Gonzalez for a medical check up, which spurred reports he had died out of sadness over the hurricane. In his over 30 years of government, the former statesmen never had to face a hurricane. It is believed that he had a pact with the Virgen de la Altagracia. Alternate governments, Dictator Trujillo in 1930 and Don Antonio Guzman in 1979 and now Dr. Leonel Fernández in 1998 have had to endure the grueling process of leading the nation's recovery after a major natural disaster.
The former President, today 92 year old, said, "I think in a few days all will be back to normal and the country will continue forward, this is but a small drawback, we have conquered many difficulties and we will continue to do so because we have with us the hand of God," said Balaguer.

Power quickly being restored
The Corporación Dominicana de Electricidad, the state power utility, announced yesterday that 70 of the 235 circuits of the capital city were operating. Several sectors of the capital city also began to receive potable water service. Of the CDE circuits, 23 are located in the capital city. CDE has reported that the eastern provinces of San Pedro and La Romana will be where it will take longest to restore power service. These provinces are relying on back up services. The CDE has announced that 70% of the city will have power restored by this Sunday. CDE brigades are working 24 hours. The CDE has been commended for its successful recovery efforts. During David, it took several weeks for most sectors to get power back.

East Coast recovery
Reports in El Siglo on the passing of the Hurricane through Higuey, the main city of the East Coast, reveal that while the city suffered from the downing of electric poles, sign posts and trees, the city is getting back to normal fast due to community efforts. Reports from this city are that most zinc covered houses lost their roofs, but journalist Rafael Alonso reports that spirits are high and there has been much solidarity among neighbors. Dominicans have gathered in the beer bars to enjoy the cool beer after days of long reconstruction efforts. The area continues to be affected by the downing of the telecommunications services.

Comparing David with Georges
Both hit with gusts of around 150 mph or 215-250 kilometers per hour. Hurricane David, which hit in 1979, did not pass through the center of the island, and thus caused less damages. Georges was a slower hurricane, and thus more destructive. Santo Domingo received the brunt of the hurricane with winds of 120 mph and gusts of 150 mph. In the capital city the hurricane was felt from 12 noon to approximately 7 pm.

27 de Febrero gets off to a good start
The drains of the Av. 27 de Febrero Expressway have proved that they work. The Minister of Public Works announced that construction on the 27 de Febrero Expressway will resume on Monday. He said the construction did not suffer damages from the passing of Georges. There had been speculation that the drainage would not work. Minister Diandino Peña said that the drains worked so well that the tunnels could be used as shelters against hurricanes in the future. He said there could be some delays in the completion of the work due to reorientation of the national budget to more priority reconstruction works.

First aid airplanes arrive
The first humanitarian aid airplanes arrived from the United States and France yesterday. At 7 am a Hercules C130 arrived from the military base in Panama with a cargo of 200 boxes of reinforced plastic to cover 10,000 houses. Paul Bell, a specialist in natural disasters recovery operations with the US Agency for International Development came along with several other disaster technicians. They came with a cargo of plastic material that can be used to replace zinc ceilings. He said other relief airplanes are on the way. The French government sent a relief plane from Martinique at 7:45 am with 120 men specialized in disaster relief efforts who will assist the government in towns and cities throughout the government. They came with a cargo of medicines and construction materials.

IDB promises US$200 million in loans
The president of the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB), Enrique Iglesias said that the organization approved disbursing an emergency fund of US$200 million to assist the nation in its recovery after Georges. Stephen E. McGaughey, IDB representative in the DR, said that the moneys will be used to rebuild destroyed infrastructure.

Flooding at Victoria Jail
The overflowing of the Yuca River that borders the Victoria Penitentiary, the principal jail of the DR, resulted in the escape of an undetermined number of prisoners, and several dead including a police man who tried to stop the escaping prisoners. The Police had tried to get the inmates to abandon the jail, but several resisted and were there when the waters of the river overflowed. The inmates did not want to abandon Victoria, where they have businesses and make their livelihood. Air photos of the jail showed flooded first floors of the different pavilions of the jail. The area was policed by jet skis.

Industrial free zones situation
The president of the Dominican Association of Free Zones, Luis Manuel Pellerano said that preliminary reports on how industrial free zones fared are that the most affected are in La Romana and San Pedro de Macoris which suffered losses of roof tops. Other free zones affected by the hurricane are located in parks in Santo Domingo, Los Alcarrizos, Villa Altagracia, Bonao, La Vega, San Cristobal, Bani and Barahona. He said that the damage was caused by the flying roofs that affected materials, equipment and electric installations.
The hurricane affected only the gardening at the private parks of Las Americas, San Isidro and Itabo where the industrial plants are covered by concrete. The Santiago parks were also affected to a lesser degree than government parks throughout the country.
Pellerano estimated that 60% of free zones were affected.
He said the main concern right now is regarding the well-being of the workers and their families. More than 190,000 workers are employed in the free zones.
He expects the free zones to reinstate operations as soon as possible. Several power plants are already back in operation using private generators.

Baseball to be played again 23 October?
The president of the Dominican Professional Baseball League said that the tournament will be played as of 23 October, despite the destruction several ball parks suffered. The San Pedro de Macoris and La Romana stadiums suffered major damages. The season is expected to start 23 October. Puerto Plata's stadium was unaffected. The Professional Baseball League has denied Puerto Plata the right to participate in the league. This could be their chance, as their stadium was not hurt by the hurricane.

V Centenario Race Track to be repaired by next months
Repairs could be completed at the V Centenario Equestrian Race Track and races again take place in three weeks, said Tony Tueni, general manager of Galapagos, the operator. He said that the race track suffered millionaire losses to the physical structure and electronic equipment. The outside gate was tumbled, and several stables lost their roofs. The roof of the grand stand suffered damages 70%. The Jockey Club was destroyed and all the furnishings. He said the principal problem, nevertheless, is restoring the telecommunications. He said that the Puerto Rico race track will take three months to be repaired.
Nearby the Las Americas Race Track was also affected. The car speed track lost its stands, bathroom and press room facilities. The course was not affected, nonetheless.

Sammy Sosa to help with aid efforts
Sammy Sosa Foundation is helping with the recovery of the DR. Contributions and donations to the DR can be sent to the Chicago Cubs at the Wrigley Field Stadium, Tel. 773-404-2827. Dominican ball players in the Major Leagues have announced their intention to pool efforts to encourage Americans to send donations to Hurricane Georges refuges in the DR.

Sosa and McGwire race could become a movie
The home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire could soon be a TV or big screen movie. A special report in the USA Today reveals that producers Penny Marshal and David Ward plan to carry out the film project. The biggest problem they feel will be finding look alikes to Sosa and McGwire. Actor Wesley Snipes is being considered for Sosa. For McGwire they are thinking of Mat Damon, Tom Cruise or Russell Crowe. McGwire would like to be played by Robert Redford.

World record holder for 45 minutes
Sammy Sosa held the most home runs record in the Major Leagues for 45 minutes on Friday after batting his 66th home run. Then Mark McGwire came through with a home run that delivered two runs in the game against Montreal in St. Louis.

Spanish company to repair Sports Palace
The repair of the Palacio de los Deportes will be assumed by Giscosa Caribe and REM when an evaluation of damages is concluded. The announcement was made to the Listin Diario by engineer Jose Antonio Rodriguez, who along with Luis Arroyo represents Giscosa Caribe in the DR. He said that the company's guarantee did not cover damages occasioned by hurricanes but that the company, in a good will gesture, will repair the stadium. Two of the company's top executives coincided with the hurricane in Santo Domingo to hand to the government the 20-year certificate-guarantee of the waterproofing of the repaired roof that had been in operation for less than a month. The day before the hurricane, spokesman for the repair company, engineer Nelson Morrison had ensured that the structure would resist any hurricane. The company will make the good will gesture to maintain the good image of the firm. The company spokesman said that Giscosa of Barcelona, Spain manufactures and installs every year more than 15 million square meters of the water proofed covering. Repairs will take 90 to 120 days. Meanwhile the National Basketball Tournament that had been taking place there is suspended.

Neptuno Restaurant is back to business in Boca Chica
Neptuno's, the largest and most popular restaurant in Boca Chica, announced it is open for business. The restaurant publicized that several areas of the large restaurant are being remodeled but its seafood dishes are being served in others. For reservations, 523-6534.

Civil Defense rookie blamed for improvising
The Listin Diario gave front page coverage to the claim of Pablo Antonio Batista, of the Dominican Meteorological Association, that denounced that the new director of the Civil Defense, Elpidio Báez, who had 15 days on the job, opposed the opening of shelters and preventive measures, fearing that if impoverished Dominicans entered these they would demand government apartments to leave, as has occurred in the past. Elpidio Baez reportedly censured the official bulletins of the Oficina Nacional de Metereologia, in order not to cause panic to the population. He exercised a wait and see attitude in regards to Hurricane Georges that at the end worked against the population that was caught unaware by the brunt hurricane when it changed course and crashed into the DR. Contrary to what had occurred for the past 20 years, the hurricane did not take a northern course. But it was not until Monday evening that it was apparent that it had changed course and after hitting Puerto Rico it would hit the DR hard.
The president of the Meteorological Association said that they had recommended 72 hours before the hurricane's hit that extreme precautions be taken among the population.
Three senators of the PRD believe that the improvisation and lack of early prevention brought about an increase in damages caused by Georges. Shelters were not made known until last minute, they say. Indeed it was not until the hurricane was already affecting the DR that President Leonel Fernandez made a Tuesday morning announcement to the nation at around 8 am. The Hurricane entered the DR at 5 am.
Adriano Miguel Tejada, press secretary of the Presidency, denied the charges of irresponsibility of the government. He said that everyone in this country knows that public buildings and public schools are the shelters. He pointed to heroic efforts to restore potable water and electricity being carried out by the government. During David, power and water services were not restored for months, and the government expects to restore power and water in less than two weeks time.

Domestic long distance service restored
Codetel reported on Friday that it had restored domestic long distance service throughout the country, with the exception of to the East. This was the most affected region. International long distance communication with Santo Domingo was maintained as this is provided by subterranean optical fiber cabling. Of its 700,000 clients, Codetel said it had received only 20,000 reports of problems.

Tax exemptions to bring in relief supplies
The director of the Customs, Miguel Cocco, announced that the government will offer "facilidades" or tax exemptions to those importing food, clothing, shoes, electric appliances and other materials to help family members.

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