Earthquake and Subsequent Tremors Rock Puerto Rico, Local Advocates Call Initial Federal Response “Unacceptable”

Puerto Rico continued to experience tremors after a deadly earthquake struck the island’s southern region in the early morning of January 7. The quake demolished homes, destroyed infrastructure, and killed at least one individual. Although shelters are open, many shelters are deemed unable to withstand further tremors that continued to rattle the island. As a result, many Puerto Ricans with damaged or destroyed homes have taken to sleeping in their vehicles to avoid injuries from collapsing buildings.

The quake severely damaged an electric plant that cut off power to the entire territory. The Puerto Rico Power Authority says it may take up to a year for full power to be restored. Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez declared a state of emergency, and she and Senators Rick Scott (R-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) requested a federal disaster declaration, which was subsequently granted by President Trump.

Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico, a member of the NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) of over 850 local, state, and national groups working for equitable disaster recovery, called the federal response inadequate and urged funding for temporary shelters and housing repairs. Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico released a statement saying, “It is unacceptable that people, especially the elderly and children, sleep outdoors - as is happening right now in the [earthquake] affected areas. That is why it is urgent that the necessary help be made available so that these people can be placed under safe roofs. Unlike the situation after a hurricane, this situation is cannot be resolved with a blue tarp, but requires immediate assistance including temporary housing, hotel vouchers and others.” The Puerto Rico governor has said that the territorial government must complete a damage assessment prior to requesting such funds.

Read Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico’s statement at: