Americares is responding to the devastating 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck Puerto Rico’s southwest coast on January 7, killing at least one person, toppling buildings and causing power outages across the island. Gov. Wanda Vázquez declared a state of emergency and activated Puerto Rico’s National Guard, cautioning residents to prepare for additional aftershocks. This earthquake follows the 5.8-magnitude quake that hit Puerto Rico early January 6, collapsing homes in Guánica and heavily damaging dozens of buildings. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, hundreds of small earthquakes have hit the island since December 28, including at least 29 over magnitude 4.0.
Americares deployed an emergency response team from its office in San Juan to Guánica today to assist families displaced by the earthquakes. The team, which includes psychologists, a social worker and a counselor, will provide psychological first aid to children and adults temporarily staying in an emergency shelter. The health-focused relief and development organization is also prepared to deliver medicine and relief supplies and support health services for survivors.
“The earthquakes have severely impacted communities still recovering from Hurricane Maria,” said Dr. Brenda Rivera-García, Puerto Rico director for Americares. “Our mental health experts are out in one of the hardest-hit communities helping survivors fearful of more aftershocks and long-term power outages. Many families are staying in shelters, or in tent camps, because they are afraid to return home.”
In 2017, Americares established a base of operations in Puerto Rico to oversee its Hurricane Maria Recovery Program. Since the storm, Americares has delivered more than 100 shipments of medicine and relief supplies, repaired damaged health facilities, and provided medical care and mental health programs to help survivors cope with stress and trauma.
Americares has professional relief workers ready to respond to disasters at a moment’s notice and stocks emergency medicine and supplies in warehouses in the U.S., Europe and India that can be delivered quickly in times of crisis. The organization responds to approximately 30 natural disasters and humanitarian crises worldwide each year, establishes long-term recovery projects and brings disaster preparedness programs to vulnerable communities. Since its founding 40 years ago, Americares has provided more than $18 billion in aid to 164 countries, including the United States.