Culture

How to Help Puerto Rico Following Its Most Devastating Earthquake in a Century

Lead Photo: People inspect damage and help to take merchandise out of a local store after a 6.4 earthquake hit just south of the island on January 7, 2020 in Guánica, Puerto Rico. Photo by Eric Rojas/Getty Images
People inspect damage and help to take merchandise out of a local store after a 6.4 earthquake hit just south of the island on January 7, 2020 in Guánica, Puerto Rico. Photo by Eric Rojas/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Puerto Rico was hit with its most devastating earthquake in a century. The 6.4 magnitude quake, which was followed by a 6.0 magnitude aftershock, collapsed homes, destroyed tourist attractions, caused an island-wide power outage, injured nine people and left at least one person dead.

The quakes, which rocked the southern coast, though its impact was felt throughout Puerto Rico, were the latest of more than 950 smaller earthquakes and aftershocks recorded in the area since December 31, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Gov. Wanda Vazquéz declared a state of emergency Tuesday, giving the government the fiscal flexibility to respond quickly to the calamity, while Democrats and Republicans have urged President Donald Trump to aid the archipelago, which is still reeling from 2017’s back-to-back disastrous Hurricanes Irma and María, a multi-billion dollar debt crisis and multiple political scandals.

The tremors damaged two of Puerto Rico’s largest power plants, impacting two-thirds of the island; caused the largest hospital, located in the capital of San Juan, to briefly lose electricity; left about 300,000 people without access to clean water; destroyed a school in the southwest municipality of Guánica; forced hundreds of people whose homes were crumbled or wrecked to take refuge in shelters and more who feared their houses may collapse to sleep on the streets, including one 80-year-old woman; toppled Punta Ventana, a natural wonder and popular tourist attraction in the small coastal town of Guayanilla; and razed a church in the municipality built in the late 1800s.

While top officials said it is too soon to fully assess the magnitude of the damages, Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia, told Bloomberg that the destruction and power failures could amount to $3.1 billion.

While Puerto Ricans, many still trying to get their heads above water following Hurricane María, remain anxious about the uncertainty of future quakes and aftershocks, those of us in the U.S. can assist in big and small ways. Here, five local groups to support that are helping Puerto Rico recover from the series of earthquakes. 

1

Ayuda Legal PR

A Puerto Rican flag sits in a pile of rubble after a 6.4 earthquake hit just south of the island on January 7, 2020 in Guánica, Puerto Rico. Photo by Eric Rojas/Getty Images

Ayuda Legal PR is a nonprofit organization that provides free and accessible education and legal support to low-income people and communities in Puerto Rico. Following Hurricane María, the group, made up of lawyers, legal experts and law students, began focusing on legal assistance during and after disasters, particularly access to justice, the right to housing and fair recovery — all of which will undoubtedly be needed for people rebuilding houses and businesses, seeking health care and more after the earthquakes. Donate here

2

Brigada Solidaria del Oeste

A home is collapsed on one side after a 6.4 earthquake hit just south of the island on January 7, 2020 in Guánica, Puerto Rico. Photo by Eric Rojas/Getty Images

Also born out of the devastating 2017 storms, Brigada Solidaria del Oeste is a community initiative comprised of individuals from various organizations, creative spaces and social struggles that meets with members of communities on the island’s west coast to identify the needs of the people and work to support them. Currently, group leaders are headed south, where the earthquakes and aftershocks were felt the most, to speak with locals, assess needs and help communities on the ground. Donate to the brigade via PayPal through their email address [email protected].

3

Casa Pueblo

Rubble covers the street after a 6.4 earthquake hit just south of the island on January 7, 2020 in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico. Photo by Eric Rojas/Getty Images

On the archipelago, Casa Pueblo is a community-management project that has been addressing climate change since 1980, when the government attempted to mine deposits of silver, gold and copper, by protecting natural, cultural and human resources and advocating for a more environmentally friendly and sustainable Puerto Rico. Their efforts and education are particularly crucial as the island is increasingly hit with natural disasters. In fact, in December, think tank Germanwatch released its annual Global Climate Risk Index 2020, which found that Puerto Rico is affected by climate change more than anywhere else in the world. Donate to Casa Pueblo here.

4

Correa Family Foundation

The public school Agripina Seda collapsed after a 6.4 earthquake hit just south of the island on January 7, 2020 in Guánica, Puerto Rico. Photo by Eric Rojas/Getty Images

Created by Puerto Rican professional baseball player Carlos Correa, the Correa Family Foundation is a nonprofit foundation that supports low-income and/or ill children. Correa, a shortstop for the Houston Astros, was in his hometown of Ponce, which was hit hard during the earthquake, with his wife Daniella Rodriguez Correa at the time the 6.4 magnitude quake hit. On Twitter, Rodriguez said she has “never been so scared in my life,” while Correa told CBS affiliate KHOU 11 “there’s a lot of victims.”

With multiple schools affected by the series of quakes, including an institution in Guánica that was destroyed, Correa started a fund through his children-oriented foundation to help rebuild impacted schools. Donate here.

5

World Central Kitchen & Comedores Sociales de Puerto Rico

Parroquia Inmaculada Concepción church was heavily damaged after a 6.4 earthquake hit just south of the island on January 7, 2020 in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico. Photo by Eric Rojas/Getty Images

While Spanish chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization providing free meals to people in the wake of natural disasters, isn’t native to Puerto Rico, the group works with local chefs and community leaders to help those in impacted areas. After Hurricane María, World Central Kitchen served more than 3,000,000 meals and is often applauded on the archipelago for its quick and impactful disaster relief. In a tweet on Tuesday, Andrés said that his team is heading to the southern coast of Puerto Rico, where they will be using solar power and generators to serve affected municipalities. Donate here.

If you prefer to support local food initiatives, Comedores Sociales de Puerto Rico, a project of Centro para el Desarrollo Político, Educativo y Cultural (CDPEC), is a self-managed food distribution initiative providing free meals to communities at the University of Puerto Rico’s Río Piedras and Cayey campuses. Donate here.