'My Father Is In There': Anguish Builds In Puerto Rico Mountains Over Decimated Tombs

The damage to 1,800 tombs in the Lares Municipal Cemetery was so extensive — and so horrifying — that health officials locked the cemetery gates after Hurricane Maria. They haven't been reopened.
After the hurricane, the Puerto Rico Department of Health closed the cemetery, calling the open graves a health risk. More than a year later, there is no plan in place to repair and reopen it. Source: Erika P. Rodriguez for NPR

In the lush green mountain town of Lares, Puerto Rico, even the dead and buried were scarred by Hurricane Maria.

The September 2017 storm dumped so much rain onto the town's only cemetery that it triggered a landslide. The flow of mud and water was so powerful that it damaged nearly 1,800 tombs — expelling caskets from their graves and sending some of them tumbling down a hillside.

The damage was so extensive — and so horrifying — that health officials locked the cemetery gates. They haven't been reopened in the 14 months since. And so, for the families and friends of those buried in the Lares Municipal Cemetery, every day has only brought more heartache.

"My father is in there. My grandmother is in there," said Giovanni Ramirez Santiago. "The town can't take this anymore."

Now, the town's residents are furious that officials have yet to make any repairs. And the longer

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