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Relief Effort Underway In Puerto Rico After Series Of Earthquakes

Carlos Giusti
AP Photo
Homes are damaged after an earthquake struck Guanica, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. A 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico before dawn, killing one man, injuring others and collapsing buildings in the southern part of the island.

President Donald Trump has signed an emergency declaration so that Puerto Rico can receive federal help after a series of earthquakes devastated parts of the island. That gives the U.S. government’s Federal Emergency Management Agency the OK to move onto the island and coordinate a public assistance effort.

The strongest event -- a magnitude 6.4 earthquake centered near Puerto Rican’s southern coast -- happened Tuesday morning. NPR reports that one person died.

Connecticut Public Radio reached out to Thomas Fargione, a deputy federal coordinating officer for FEMA, in Caguas, where his team is working to address issues like a lack of power and water.

“We will be addressing those very specific needs -- life safety, stabilization of the event -- and then, we’re helping the local governments and the commonwealth government provide whatever support is required for the folks that are impacted by this disaster,” Fargione said.

As part of the declaration, Fargione said the federal government will fund 75% of what it costs to keep people safe in the aftermath of the earthquake. 

Meanwhile, Stamford-based nonprofit Americares has deployed workers to Puerto Rico.

Generally in an emergency situation, Americares provides medical supplies to people who need them. In Guanica, one of the towns devastated by the earthquake, an Americares team is responding to people staying at a shelter, looking after their mental health.

“What they’re seeing on the ground -- what the teams are reporting -- is a lot of families that have been displaced, families that suddenly are finding themselves homeless. And it is a heartbreaking situation for them,” said Dr. Brenda Rivera-Garcia, who’s coordinating this effort out of San Juan.

Survivors undergo an initial psychological evaluation by Americares workers, and then they’re referred to specialist services if necessary.

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