Caribbean fam­i­lies sep­a­rate to re­build lives af­ter storm

The Oklahoman - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAN­ICA COTO The As­so­ci­ated Press

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO — The shrieks of chil­dren play­ing vol­ley­ball and the oc­ca­sional bark­ing of dogs echoed inside Puerto Rico’s largest con­ven­tion cen­ter, trans­formed into a shel­ter for hur­ri­cane vic­tims from other Caribbean is­lands as hundreds of fam­i­lies dev­as­tated by the Cat­e­gory 5 storm tran­si­tion to­ward new lives. For many, that in­cluded tear­ful good-byes as they leave be­hind chil­dren with friends or fam­ily on the U.S. main­land, where they can go to school while their par­ents re­turn to jobs on the is­lands and try to re­build their lives.

Puerto Rico has re­ceived more than 2,000 U.S. cit­i­zens who were liv­ing or va­ca­tion­ing in is­lands bat­tered by Hur­ri­cane Irma last week, in­clud­ing more than 500 who ar­rived via cruise ship on Thurs­day.

Many live in the U.S. and Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands and were head­ing from San Juan to the U.S. main­land to leave their chil­dren with rel­a­tives and then go back home to re­sume work so they can keep pro­vid­ing for their loved ones.

“I’m go­ing to miss you, and you’re go­ing to miss me too, but this is what it’s go­ing to be for now,” Josette Cooper, a 43-yearold school teacher, re­called telling her young son af­ter they ar­rived in Puerto Rico.

[AP PHOTO]

Cots are set up in a con­ven­tion cen­ter trans­formed into a shel­ter for vic­tims of Hur­ri­cane Irma on Thurs­day in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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