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Jan 26 2020

Puerto Rico Is Still Shaking

While the news was focused on the Impeachment trial in the US Senate, Puerto Rico was once again struck by a significant earthquake on Saturday

A 5.0 magnitude earthquake hit southern Puerto Rico on Saturday at a shallow depth, raising concerns about unstable infrastructure in a region that has been hit by quakes every day for nearly a month.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake occurred at a depth of eight miles (13 kilometers) around the southern coastal town of Guayanilla, located close to the epicenters of most of the recent earthquakes. At least one small landslide was reported.

The newest quake comes a day after hundreds of people in the island’s southern region were evacuated from earthquake shelters that flooded after heavy rains hit the U.S. territory. In the coastal city of Ponce alone, more than 350 people on Friday were moved back into a school that served as the initial shelter when the ground first began shaking, Angel Vazquez, the city’s emergency management director, told the AP.

He said no damage was immediately reported in Ponce, but that crews were out inspecting buildings in areas affected by a 6.4 magnitude quake that hit Jan. 7, killing one person and damaging hundreds of homes. A 5.9 aftershock that hit the same area on Jan. 11 caused further damage.

Since the first quake on December 28 there have been 2,407 earthquakes in the past 30 days , 250 in the last seven days and 16 in the last 24 hours.

Puerto Rico has suffered since 2017 when it was hit by two devastating hurricanes, Irma and Maria. Congress approved $20 billion in aid after Maria struck in September of 2017. Since then only $1.5 billion has been dispersed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. After the 6.4 magnitude quake on January 7, the Puerto Rican governor, Wanda Vázquez Garced, declared a state of emergency, the Trump administration released more of the aid but with some serious strings attached

The Trump administration recently announced that it would release $16 billion in relief funds to the embattled commonwealth, but under austere conditions. This would require the Puerto Rico government to submit budget plans to its fiscal-control board; update its property registration database; suspend the $15-an-hour minimum wage for federally funded relief workers; and despite recurrent power outages, these funds cannot be used for the island’s electrical grid because a separate $2 billion of unreleased funds are allocated for that purpose.

The funding will be sourced from the $20 billion previously approved by Congress in September 2017, after Hurricane Maria first struck Puerto Rico. Yet in the two years since the budget was passed, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has disbursed only $1.5 billion of those funds. An additional $1.8 billion was allotted in government contracts to restore electricity on the island — but instead, resulted in the indictment of two FEMA officials on charges of fraud and bribery. [..]

Unfortunately, the local government has struggled to contain the situation itself. Last Saturday, a stockpile of relief supplies was discovered in a warehouse outside the southern town of Ponce. Items like bottled water, diapers, propane tanks, and sleeping cots had been locked away since fall 2017, to the neglect of hurricane survivors, and two years later, earthquake survivors. Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced — successor to the previously ousted Ricardo Rosselló — promptly fired Carlos Acevedo, the director of the island’s emergency management agency. On Thursday night, hundreds of Puerto Ricans gathered around La Fortaleza in protest of the Vázquez administration, citing the same deep-seated corruption they protested last summer.

On the island of Vieques off the coast of Puerto Rico the hospital was badly damages during Irma and Maria, the Trump administration has finally deigned to release funding to rebuild the hospital after the death of a 13 year old from the flu due to the lack of a proper medical facility on the island.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved $39.5 million in funds to help Vieques, Puerto Rico, rebuild its only hospital, nearly three years after it was destroyed by Hurricane Maria.

Even though the Susana Centeno community health center historically lacked a formal “hospital” designation, it housed the small island’s clinic for veterans, as well as the only labor and delivery room in Vieques, located about seven miles off Puerto Rico’s eastern coast.

The announcement comes nearly two weeks after Jaideliz Moreno Ventura, 13, died after lacking proper medical equipment and facilities in Vieques, where she lived, to treat flu-like symptoms.

Even though FEMA did not acknowledge her death in its statement Tuesday afternoon, José Miguel Ventura, Jaideliz’s cousin, told NBC News he was happy to hear that her death was having an impact.

 

The people of the island are American citizens. It is an international disgrace that the Trump administration has treated them so badly.