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Reporting On Puerto Rico's State Of Emergency After Major Quake

Carlos Giusti
Associated Press
The Agripina Seda public school stands partially collapsed after an earthquake struck Guanica, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020.

The island of Puerto Rico remains in a state of emergency as it recovers from a string of earthquakes that have rattled the island in recent days. A magnitude 6.4 earthquake centered near Puerto Rico’s southern coast caused major damage in the early hours of Tuesday morning. 

Rafael Lama Bonilla is an editor for the Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia. He spoke Tuesday with Connecticut Public’s Ray Hardman.

On the damage from the major quake

In the south we see more damage, there was a school that collapsed. Luckily here in Puerto Rico, public school has not started. It was a school in Guanica, the whole structure partially collapsed. There’s about 346 people being taken to shelters because their homes are not in safe places. There’s about 150,000 homes in Puerto Rico that have not been built according to the proper construction codes. So the governor is urging people if their homes have been compromised or if they’re not built according to code, just go to the shelters. Here we prepare for hurricanes, but we haven’t had an earthquake in over 100 years. Puerto Rico’s not used to this.

About the state of emergency

Now they’re in communication with the federal government, and they’re already in touch with FEMA. And the counterpart agencies -- like the health department here, is in talks with the health department in the U.S. to just provide assistance in terms of the damage that has been done. There’s a lot of emphasis on roads and bridges and schools. There’s a lot of debris in some of the southern roads. And now it’s communication between the local and federal government in terms of assistance that they may need.

About the power outage

Part of [the outage] was due to the self-defense mechanism from the plants, that once they identify seismic activity they shut down to protect themselves. But there’s been a few stations that were damaged. As of now, the main hospital in Puerto Rico that was without power has been energized. So the focus and the priority of the government is to supply all hospitals and then the rest of the population. Lots of homes and businesses are working with electric generators. Power may not come back as soon as the government expects.

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