At 4:24 a.m. local time on January 7, Puerto Rico was hit by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake along its southern coast—the strongest in a string of escalating seismic activity that started on December 28. The quake triggered safety mechanisms at power plants in the area, where the majority of the island’s power generation capacity is located, causing emergency shutdowns that led to power outages across the island, as well as interruptions to other public services, including water and communications. Multiple roadways and bridges along the south side of the island have been damaged.
One fatality has been reported, in Ponce, due to collapsed structure; more than 200,000 people on the south side of the island reportedly require assistance. The island’s emergency management department is evacuating hospitals and other sectors in the south. Shelters are being set up, and many municipalities have declared a state of emergency.
International Medical Corps has staff on the ground conducting assessments, and is supporting mental health needs, including providing psychological first aid (PFA) to those affected by losses caused by the quake. Thanks to efforts in response to Hurricane Maria, we already have trained more than 400 people in PFA, including health personnel, community members and leaders. Supplies are being prepositioned, and our team already has been able to provide PFA interventions and distribute food and water in a number of communities.
International Medical Corps will look at expanding our response as necessary as more information becomes available. We are providing urgently needed hygiene kits, as well as tents, blankets and other critical supplies, to those affected by the quake, and are working to provide portable solar generators to support partners providing critical health services.
Our field staff and Emergency Response Unit remain in close communication with Puerto Rico’s Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) and Department of Health as they continue to assess needs, and our medical surge mission-ready packages stand ready to provide additional support if requested.