Puerto Rico, Disaster Strikes Again

IRUSA arrives in Puerto Rico a second time after a devastating earthquake leaves thousands of families without access to essentials such as, electricity, water, and food.

Only two years after some of the strongest hurricanes hit Puerto Rico, disaster strikes again on the island, this time in the form of an earthquake. For weeks during the end of December, tremors were felt in the southern part of the Island. On January 7, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit the island causing the greatest amount of devastation among them all. Hundreds of homes were damaged and thousands were left homeless. 

Once again, emergency was declared on the island. And once again, Islamic Relief responded to Puerto Rico. 

Linda has lived in Puerto Rico for 12 years. She was in her home when the earthquake struck on Jan 7.

“I felt fear. As soon as I felt the shake I started to run with my family,” Linda said. 

She was able to bring her family to safety. Luckily her homes was not destroyed, but her parents and sister lost everything in the quake. 

Linda is living in a small informal camp in her neighborhood where she is acting as the leader of the camp making sure she is getting the supplies needed and distributing them evenly. She doesn’t know how long they will be living like this, but she is trying to get some help so she can move out of the camp.

As the tremors continue daily, many Puerto Ricans are not sleeping in their homes. They are afraid to. Some locals are living in shelters provided by the government. In Ponce, over 900 people were staying in a school building that was converted to a shelter. But there are many who are camping near their homes in informal settlements similar to Linda. These are the people that our teams focused on during this deployment.

Islamic Relief responded with a coalition of interfaith partners including the New York Disaster Interfaith Services, Project Refuge, Team Playa and Ciudad Museo PR. Together we procured supplies that were needed on the ground such as generators, canopies, coolers, and hygiene products. We then drove to the southern part of the Island which was where the earthquake created the most devastation. Through local FEMA staff we learned of the different informal camps and distributed necessary supplies there. We also went door to door in some of the harder to reach areas to distribute aid as well.

Although the road to recovery is long, Islamic Relief plans to be there for the people of Puerto Rico long-term. We hope to rebuild their homes alongside them in order to get people back inside their houses.

Similar to our response in during Maria, we want to be there for the community even after the emergency is over.

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