Mets' Alou, Martinez help storm survivors in Dominican
NEW YORK -- Pedro Martinez's neighbors in the Dominican Republic are desperate.
They've been driven from their humble homes, with families separated and children displaced after small shacks all over the island were washed away in the catastrophic floods from Tropical Storm Noel.
People are hungry. They're exhausted. Hundreds are sleeping on the floor at Martinez's old high school, short on clothing and water and everything else they need.
"It's devastating. The area was just totally wiped out," Martinez said Wednesday on a conference call from his ravaged country. "They don't have anything. They're just waiting for us to bring anything, something to eat."
Martinez and New York Mets teammate Moises Alou are trying to help. The star pitcher returned to his Dominican hometown of Manoguayabo, touring storm-battered houses and visiting a shelter for evacuees.
Martinez had planned to begin his offseason training program Wednesday in Florida, but he's staying home until next week so he can attempt to provide more assistance. He pleaded for others to chip in, too.
"I'm like the mayor here. People just run up to me and, I can't. I can't. I'm not enough," Martinez said. "I'm asking for help. I'm crying out, HELP! I can't do it by myself."
Noel, which intensified into a hurricane, blew through the Caribbean last weekend and was blamed for at least 84 deaths in the Dominican Republic, 57 in Haiti and one each in the Bahamas and Jamaica. The storm displaced about 25,000 people in the Dominican, many left homeless due to disastrous flooding and mudslides.
"I think it's probably worse than what you've seen in the paper or on TV," said Alou, who also lives in the Dominican Republic.
Martinez's wife, Carolina, joined him in Manoguayabo, the small suburb of Santo Domingo where the three-time Cy Young Award winner was born. She said the entire community was flooded. They've heard one heartbreaking story after another from folks who lost their homes and belongings -- even their children when youngsters were swept away by the surging water.
"Those people were left like in the middle of the river. Some of the people were dragging their kids out," Martinez said. "It's horrible when you come and see it in person."
He's witnessed such destruction before. Recalling his childhood, Martinez told victims he had to evacuate his home in 1979 after Hurricane David, a massive storm that killed thousands and caused billions of dollars in damage.
"I know what it means to see your house full of water and have to go running, leaving everything behind," he said.
Now, Martinez fears disease will set in for many evacuees who are living in cramped conditions without safe water. He said any sort of aid would help: clothing, food, water, money, medicine. He hopes the large Dominican population in New York can make a difference.
"The government, it's going to take them a little while to fix everything," Martinez said.
The Mets launched a fundraising and public awareness drive Wednesday to assist the relief effort, and fans can make donations through the team's Web site or the New York Mets Foundation.
Martinez called on other baseball stars to join the recovery effort as well. His agent, Fernando Cuza, said the Mets would match the amount raised by Martinez and Alou.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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