Publish date January 10, 2020
Puerto Rico has been rocked by a series of earthquakes beginning December 28th. At least 10 have been magnitude 4 or higher including a 5.8 on Monday morning (1/6) and a 6.4 on Tuesday morning (1/7), the strongest earthquake Puerto Rico has experienced in over 100 years. Though located close to a fault line, powerful earthquakes in Puerto Rico are rare.
At least 2,000 people are currently in shelters, at least 346 people have lost their homes, and at least one person has died. Many people are sleeping outside because of aftershocks, as they fear their homes will collapse.
The Costa Sur Power Plant that generates more than a quarter of the island’s power has extensive damage. The manager of the plant has said he thinks it will take over a month before they are back in operation. The CEO of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority thinks it will take a year to be back online. In addition to widespread power outages, many residents are also without water.
Experiencing such a large number of earthquakes of this magnitude would stress the infrastructure of the island—and wellbeing of its residents—in normal circumstances, but the situation is exponentially worse after Hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged Puerto Rico in 2017. Although Congress allocated $44 billion in aid through FEMA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) following the hurricanes, the island has only actually received $15 billion. HUD is delaying approximately $18 billion meant to upgrade infrastructure like the electric grid, and support rebuilding homes and businesses. Had the planned repairs been made, earthquake damage may not have been nearly so extreme.
Governor Wanda Vázquez has declared a state of emergency and requested federal aid. As U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans deserve the same federal recovery support as any mainland community. Because they have still not received adequate federal support for the 2017 hurricanes, we believe it is our duty as humanists to respond.
We are invested in the welfare and recovery of every Puerto Rican. It is well known that survivors of disasters like Maria experience trauma responses to later events like this, and our hearts go out to every person affected by this disaster. In 2017 we raised more than $25,000 to support Puerto Rico’s recovery from the hurricanes and with Secular Student Alliance sent volunteers in 2019 to help rebuild with All Hands and Hearts: Smart Response.
We also provided grant support to Proyecto Matria, a local organization that transitioned their work supporting women’s rights on the island to supporting women’s recovery. They have done extraordinary work since that time, and we know they will provide effective and compassionate support to communities affected by the earthquakes. To assist them in their expanded recovery efforts, Foundation Beyond Belief has selected Proyecto Matria as beneficiary for this Appeal.
As this disaster continues and more information is received, FBB may choose additional avenues for supporting those affected.
The Humanist Disaster Recovery program is sustained through a partnership between Foundation Beyond Belief and the American Humanist Association (AHA).
We thank AHA for their generous support of our efforts.