FORT MYERS, Fla. – Shrimpers who weathered Hurricane Ian on shrimp boats are struggling to find work after the devastating storm ravaged Florida.
The Fort Myers Beach area was home to the Gulf of Mexico’s largest commercial shrimp fleet, but now workers Oriel Martínez Alvarado and Javier Allan Lopez are out of work indefinitely.
“We have family waiting for us and we have nothing. This is our concern,” Martínez said in Spanish.
Ahead of Ian, it was too late to evacuate. So they spent the whole storm in the shrimp boats.
“There was no time to leave or leave because the freeway was already jammed,” Martinez said. “If we were hit while we were on the freeway, we could have been killed, so we couldn’t leave. We were stuck there.”
During the storm, Martinez and Lopez worried that the boat they were on, the Miz Shirley, would sink. So they crossed to the Big Daddy with two other sailors.
“The whole boat was going round and round,” Lopez said.
The passage was dangerous. Martinez hit and injured his leg. They prayed for his safety.
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“Everything you can do, believing in God, because it was life or death,” Martinez said.
“There is nothing left to do,” added Lopez.
After the storm, information is limited. They have not heard from their employer, and any news is brought from passers-by.
“At the moment we are thinking of staying here because they said a project is coming. So we’re hoping to get some work,” Martinez said.
They can’t leave if they want, as transportation is limited.
“We want to at least work on the ground … Whatever it is,” Lopez said. “If we can, we’re there.”
Follow reporters Hannah Morse and Andres Leiva on Twitter: @mannahhorse, @amateoleiva.