Puerto Rico, Devastated by Earthquakes, Needs Our Help

Puerto Rico, still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Maria and the Trump administration’s refusal to provide adequate disaster relief, has been hit with a terrifying series of earthquakes over the past two weeks. The largest so far, a robust M6.4 that struck early in the morning on January 7th, killed one man and injured at least 8 other people. There’s no end to the aftershocks in sight. The island needs all the help we can give.

I’ll share with you resources for providing help and comfort to people who have suffered far too many disasters. I’ll also provide you a good collection of links that will help you understand what’s happening, why, and how Trump’s contempt for Puerto Rico has made a bad situation exponentially worse.

How to Help

Bustle has a list of excellent aid organizations you can donate to. All of them have boots on the ground, and the local knowledge to do the most good.

You can help even if you haven’t got a penny to spare:

Even though people born on the island are U.S. citizens, the United States does not offer equal governmental representation for Puerto Ricans as it does to residents of the 50 states. Asking your local government officials to prioritize relief efforts in Puerto Rico is key. CNN reports that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), widely criticized for its response to Hurricane María, is beginning to coordinate relief efforts with Puerto Rican officials; having your representatives push for adequate relief will be essential. You can use your zip code to find your representatives here.

If you can handwrite a postcard to your representatives, that has a lot of impact. You can also use Resistbot via text or Facebook Messenger to send a fax.

Before donating to private individuals, make sure to verify the request isn’t a scam. And remember: money is the best thing you can donate in a disaster. Donate to local organizations, or ones that are experienced with the local conditions and needs.

What’s the story with all these earthquakes?

Since December 28th, 2019, southern Puerto Rico has been jolted by a series of substantial earthquakes.

Temblor has one of the best overviews so far of the situation with this earthquake sequence.

The USGS also has an excellent post that’s being regularly updated.

Erik Klemetti did a quick breakdown at his Rocky Planet blog.

Berkeley’s Seismo Blog does a good job describing some of the faults involved.

Basically: Puerto Rico is stuck between two subduction zones with some pretty complex stresses and strains, so earthquakes like these are bound to happen. This sequence probably isn’t over, we don’t yet know if the M6.4 on Tuesday was the mainshock or merely a particularly large foreshock, and while it’s all terrifying, it’s pretty normal in the tectonic scheme of things.

The January 6th M5.8 that Destroyed a Natural Wonder

After being jostled and jolted for almost two weeks, the island got hit with a sharp M5.8 quake that brought down the beautiful Punta Ventana sea arch. This is a harsh blow to the local tourist economy. You can see before and after photos, get details on what happened, and hear locals talk about their losses at the Miami Herald, Washington Post, and Gizmodo.

The Deadly M6.4 on January 7th

The biggest earthquake so far killed one man and injured several people. Hundreds of homes, dozens of businesses, and a handful of schools and hospitals were damaged or destroyed. The damage and trauma are ongoing.

Vice and The Guardian have collections of photos that show the destruction. Shallow earthquakes striking buildings not built to strict seismic codes cause a lot of damage and dismay.

The Grim Electrical Situation

Puerto Rico’s energy intrastructure was already in bad shape after the ravages of Hurricane Maria. This series of earthquakes could not have hit in a worse location for the energy grid: the island’s power plants are all located on the southern coast. A good portion of the island is still without power.

Gizmodo has a good rundown on how the earthquakes have highlighted the fragility of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid.

The Seismic Network

Strangely, hurricanes have exposed vulnerabilities in Puerto Rico’s seismic network. Ithad to be rebuilt after Irma and Maria. This seismic sequence shows why that work was crucial.

Disaster Relief – And How the Trump Administration is Failing Puerto Rico

If you read nothing else about the unconscionable neglect Puerto Rico has suffered from the current US government, read the Miami Herald’s scathing editorial.

There was not a word uttered by President Donald Trump Tuesday morning. He was too busy running a propagandist campaign on Twitter to diminish the gravity of his impeachment and to persuade Americans that his assassination of the top Iranian military leader wasn’t irresponsible.

Florida’s two senators, however, chimed in to give Trump (and themselves) a hand with Puerto Rican voters in the state.

They offered prayers.

They said they were reaching out to Puerto Rican leaders, FEMA and the president to facilitate help.

Scott, accused by Democrats last April of blocking a multimillion-dollar aid package for Puerto Rico at Trump’s behest, jumped on the earthquake story before Rubio — and remained on it most of the day.

Scott tweeted that he had talked to Trump and FEMA officials, and that there’s a staff of 2,300 on ground “ready to help.”

No talk of money, though.

It takes money to feed and shelter people after their homes and businesses are destroyed in a natural disaster. It takes money to rebuild. It takes money to upgrade infrastructure. It takes money to seismically retrofit vulnerable structures.

The Trump Administration has so far dragged its feet on providing the money already appropriated by Congress for Hurricane Maria relief. It has dragged them again and again and again and hasn’t stopped so far. You can guess what’s going to happen with disaster relief for the current series of earthquakes.

So, once again,I refer you to the ways to help. Donate money if you can. But also ask your federal representatives to demand quick release of existing relief funds, and to authorize additional aid, and put a stop to any further foot dragging.

Puerto Rico will continue to experience natural disasters – just like every other place people live. The human cost doesn’t have to be high. It’s in our power to ensure they’re able to survive, rebuild, and make their homes and cities more able to withstand nature’s inevitable assaults.

Let’s make a difference.

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