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Wednesday 20 September 2017

'We decided to risk it' - Irish couple stuck in Puerto Rico hotel as storm bears down

Rebecca Mooney is on holiday with her boyfriend in Puerto Rico
Rebecca Mooney is on holiday with her boyfriend in Puerto Rico

Gavin White

An Irish couple have been left stuck in their hotel in Puerto Rico as the island prepares to be battered by Hurricane Irma.

Rebecca Mooney (25), from Blackrock in Dublin, arrived on Saturday after she and boyfriend Mark Livingstone (25), from Breaffy, Co Mayo, "decided to take the risk".

"I got a phone call on Friday before we travelled, and at that point they weren't expecting it to be out of the ordinary," Rebecca told the Irish Independent.

"We thought that they were used to dealing with storms, so we decided to risk it. It wasn't until we got here that we realised how big it is," she added.

Rebecca and Mark are due to leave on Saturday and have had no news on whether their flight will be cancelled.

There are currently around 80 people in their hotel in San Juan, including staff and guests and, even though staff have been allowed go home, most have opted to stay and help the guests.

Waves crash against the seawall as Hurricane Irma slammed across islands in the northern Caribbean on Wednesday, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. Photo: REUTERS
Waves crash against the seawall as Hurricane Irma slammed across islands in the northern Caribbean on Wednesday, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. Photo: REUTERS

"The hotel staff has been absolutely amazing, giving us very regular updates and helpful evacuation meetings," she said.

"Because of that, I'm a little less worried than I was on Tuesday, but I am very worried about the people who live here and don't have the luxury of well-built hotels," she said.

Yesterday afternoon, hotel staff gave guests a hurricane briefing, where they were told the details of evacuation procedures and what to expect.

The couple currently live in New York and, as many of their friends were visiting them over the summer, they decided to leave their holiday until now. Rebecca said they thought now "was a good time to go".

Hurricane Irma, a record Category 5 storm, is seen approaching Puerto Rico in this NOAA National Weather Service National Hurricane Center satellite image. Photo: REUTERS
Hurricane Irma, a record Category 5 storm, is seen approaching Puerto Rico in this NOAA National Weather Service National Hurricane Center satellite image. Photo: REUTERS

The architect and designer said that "nobody is in the streets" and people have boarded up their homes and businesses.

"A lot of the residents have boarded up their businesses, so they've been putting wood in front of their windows," she said.

Their hotel in the centre of San Juan lost power yesterday morning, but a back-up generator is now providing electricity.

Rebecca said the couple had "four beautiful and amazing days" before the storm gathered strength and started hearing in their direction.

"It's an amazing place, here. Even yesterday morning we were out on the boat on the sea in glorious sunshine," she said.

"Now if I look out the window, the birds can't even fly - the wind is that strong," she said.

Rebecca said that fortunately, her parents in Ireland were "very laid back" and were not worrying about her too much.

"Everyone else is frantically contacting us, though," she said.

Irish Independent

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