Things That Matter

Three More Have Died In Puerto Rican Earthquake And Survivors Say It’s Worse Than Hurricane Maria

In Puerto Rico, an island still in recovery mode after the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Maria, people are now worried about damaging earthquakes.

Although seismic activity isn’t rare in the Caribbean – remember the trauma of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake? – the island has been seismically calm for many years. So it’s no surprise that Puerto Ricans are shaken over the recent tremors that have left people homeless as houses collapse.

The quakes have also exposed the vulnerability to infrastructure on the island still struggling to bounce back after Maria.

The major 6.4 earthquake rocked Puerto Rico just a day after two large quakes had residents panicked.

Credit: Carlos Giusti

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake shook southwestern Puerto Rico this morning, according to the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS); this is the largest yet in a series of quakes that have hit the region.

At least one person died as walls collapsed around the area, and eight more people were injured, according to NPR. Electricity went out across Puerto Rico as automated systems shut down the island’s power plants, recalling power outages that lasted 11 months after Hurricane Maria, which caused the worst blackout in US history.

The North American and Caribbean tectonic plates meet in this area, but the quake doesn’t appear to be the result of those plates grinding together, according to USGS. Instead, a release of energy and stress inside the Caribbean plate seems to have caused the shaking

This major quake comes after a pair of powerful earthquakes hit the Caribbean Island early on Monday morning.

Credit: USGS

A 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico on Monday morning, followed by a 4.9 magnitude quake and several smaller ones in the following hours.

The largest quake originated south of the island at 6:32 a.m., cracking some houses’ walls and collapsing at least five homes in the coastal town of Guánica. No casualties have been reported, and there was also no threat of a tsunami even as the residual quakes continued to hit.

Several smaller quakes ranging from 4.7 to 5.1 in magnitude have hit Puerto Rico since Dec. 28, leading Guánica resident Alberto Rodríguez to tell The Associated Press “We haven’t slept … you can’t remain calm here. Guánica is no longer a safe place.” His home collapsed Monday.

Although there aren’t any reports of injuries or casualties, the quakes have caused damage across the island.

The Mayor of Guánica told AP at least 29 other homes were heavily damaged after the latest quake. A rock formation popular among tourists called Playa Ventana also was damaged in the earlier quakes, and completely collapsed Monday.

Helicopters buzzed overhead and terrified residents jumped up from their folding chairs every time the earth shook, yelling at others to stay away from power lines.

Puerto Rico doesn’t have a public earthquake warning system, except for sirens that are supposed to ring in case of a tsunami. Residents in this neighborhood criticized the government for what they believe is a lack of action.

Dr. Sindia Alvarado, who lives in the southern coastal town of Penuelas, said she was petrified.

“My entire family woke up screaming,” she told the Washington Post. “I thought the house was going to crack in half.”

The seismic activity comes as the island, and much of Latin America, celebrates Dia de Reyes Magos.

Most residents have been wary of returning home to celebrate Three Kings Day, and some children ended up opening their gifts on sidewalks outside. Some people had already been prepared since the earlier quakes with clothes, food, and water already packed in their cars.

Geologists warn of more tremors to come.

“More earthquakes than usual (called aftershocks) will continue to occur near the mainshock,” the USGS said.

“When there are more earthquakes, the chance of a large earthquake is greater which means that the chance of damage is greater.”

The agency advised anyone in or near vulnerable structures to be extra cautious and said those caught in potential quakes should drop, cover and hold on.

Puerto Rico has a history of devastating earthquakes dating back thousands of years.

Victor Huerfano, director of Puerto Rico’s Seismic Network, told the AP that shallow quakes were occurring along three faults in Puerto Rico’s southwest region: Lajas Valley, Montalva Point and the Guayanilla Canyon. He said the quakes overall come as the North American plate and the Caribbean plate squeezes Puerto Rico, and that it was unclear when they would stop or if bigger quakes would occur.

One of the largest and most damaging earthquakes to hit Puerto Rico occurred in October 1918, when a 7.3-magnitude quake struck near the island’s northwest coast, unleashing a tsunami and killing 116 people.

Hacker Attempts To Steal $4 Million From Puerto Rican Government In Phishing Scam

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Hacker Attempts To Steal $4 Million From Puerto Rican Government In Phishing Scam

John Piekos / Flickr

Hackers attempted to steal $4 million from the Puerto Rican government using a common phishing scam. The scams referred to as business email compromises, target public and private entities every year on the U.S. mainland. Here’s what we know so far.

A hacker attempted to steal millions of dollars from the Puerto Rican government.

Credit: @DavidBegnaud / Twitter

According to reports, hackers were able to infiltrate various agencies in the Puerto Rican government through phishing emails. The hackers attempted to access $4 million dollars by targeting Puerto Rico’s Industrial Development Company and the Tourism Company.

The Industrial Development Company sent around $2.6 million while the Tourism Company wired over $1.5 million. According to the AP, the agencies received emails from a fraudulent employee claiming there was a change of bank accounts.

Federal officials say they were about to freeze the money to prevent loss to Puerto Rico.

David Begnaud of CBS News took to Twitter to update people on the latest developments. According to Begnaud’s conversation with federal authorities, the hackers had not received the money from Puerto Rico and they were able to freeze it. They are working to send the money back to Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is not the only victim in a phishing crime. During the same time as the hacking of Puerto Rico, a school district in Manor, Texas lost $2.3 million and another $800,000 were stolen from officials in Griffin, Georgia. More than 23,000 of these scams stole $1.7 billion from businesses and agencies in the U.S. mainland last year. The FBI was able to recover around $300 million.

The news is surprising people on social media.

Credit: @MilagsCon / Twitter

Corruption in Puerto Rico’s government has been a topic of discussion since Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Puerto Rico was recently devastated by a series of earthquakes while still recovering from the 2017 hurricane that devastated the island. Missing relief funds and misplaced supplies have angered Puerto Ricans in recent months as it comes to light.

This latest financial and security shortcoming of Puerto Rico’s government is not helping its reputation.

Credit: @J_Fort47 / Twitter

Puerto Ricans have been showing their displeasure with the elected officials on the island for years. Recently, Puerto Ricans protested and marched until Ricardo Rosselló resigned from his office. The former governor was caught in a group chat scandal in which he made derogatory comments about the LGBTQ+ community and women. There were also allegations of corruption and misuse of funds within his admi9nistration that led to a series of investigations.

READ: The Puerto Rico Department of Justice Is Seeking An Independent Investigation Into Ricardo Rosselló

A Warehouse Full Of Forgotten Supplies From 2017 Was Just Found In Puerto Rico After More Than 1000 Earthquakes Hit The Island

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A Warehouse Full Of Forgotten Supplies From 2017 Was Just Found In Puerto Rico After More Than 1000 Earthquakes Hit The Island

@IGD_News / Twitter

Over the past two and a half weeks, Puerto Rico has experienced more than 1000 earthquakes. This number may seem unbelievable, but it’s true: after a 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit the island on January 7—the largest earthquake to hit Puerto Rico in more than a century—aftershocks have continued to jolt the island, leaving hundreds of people homeless, lacking supplies and electricity. Among the aftershocks was January 11’s 5.9 magnitude quake, which caused even further devastation, particularly to the southern part of the island. So far, the earthquakes have cost an estimated $200 million in damages, including the destruction of more than 800 homes.

But the damage hasn’t only been structural—several people are experiencing extreme anxiety as tremors continue to strike the island.

Credit: Facebook / ASSMCA Online

Officials from ASSMCA, Puerto Rico’s  Office of Mental Health Services and Addiction Prevention, have been making their rounds at outdoor shelters where displaced individuals and families have taken refuge, offering mental health support to those most affected by the quakes.

“These aftershocks are triggers for people,” Abdiel Dumeng, an ASSMCA employee, said in Spanish in an interview.”But I have to admit that we’ve seen a decrease in these kinds of crises, because we’ve been working together for a while, teaching people how to stay calm.”

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), aftershocks will continue to decrease in frequency over the next month and will be exponentially “lower in magnitude”. But in the meantime, Puerto Rico’s Office of Emergency Management estimates that more than 8,000 people are staying in these outdoor shelters—fewer than half are in government-run shelters, while the rest are taking refuge in either informal spaces or shelters run by non-government organizations.

What exactly constitutes an “informal” shelter? Well, some folks have simply taken their beds outside, staying close to home while avoiding the potential dangers of being indoors. Others are crashing with relatives in towns that have experienced less damage than other areas.

Credit: StarTribune

In response to the 5.9 earthquake on January 11, Governor Wanda Vázquez said that she had declared a major state emergency following an initial assessment of the damages incurred. Vázquez also announced the immediate disbursement of $2 million for the towns of Guánica, Utuado, Guayanilla, Peñuelas, Ponce and Yauco, which experienced the most damage due to their proximity to the earthquakes’ epicenter. This $2 million was defined as a way to meet the towns’ most urgent needs—but now, ten days later, la gente está harta, because these needs still haven’t been met.

Just a few days ago, Vázquez fired two high-ranking officials in her administration: Housing Secretary Fernando Gil and Department of Family Secretary Glorimar Andújar. She also fired former Emergency Management Director Carlos Acevedo. The Governor’s reason for the dismissals was an alleged lack of information regarding aid collection and distribution centers.

This lack of information had to do with the discovery of a warehouse in Ponce that was filled with seemingly forgotten disaster supplies. But these supplies were not sent in response to the current crisis—they date back to when Hurricane Maria (a Category 4 storm) hit the island in September 2017.

Credit: Carlos Giusti / Associated Press

And people are understandably angry. On January 20, scores of demonstrators gathered in front of the Governor’s mansion in San Juan to demand her resignation. While the Governor seems to have tried addressing the issue with the dismissals mentioned above, several people are accusing her of not taking accountability for this appalling error, urging her to step down. And with demonstrators vowing to stay in the streets until Vázquez steps down, the current situation looks a lot like last summer’s demonstrations, which ultimately caused Governor Ricardo Rosselló to resign.

When asked by NBC News what the “human impact” of this mistake is, Rafael Gonzalez—President of PROFESA, a Puerto Rican Professional Association that delivered aid during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria—said, “We saw it on [sic] Maria. We saw what happens when you don’t deliver the supplies that people need. People die.”

Indeed, more than 3,000 people died as a result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria (not to mention highly insufficient disaster response on the part of the United States government). At this point, the recent series of earthquakes has resulted in one death and nine injuries. In an attempt to keep that number from rising, Jennifer Gonzales, Puerto Rico’s Commissioner to Congress, joined forces with five other members of Congress to send a letter to Donald Trump, asking him to sign a major disaster declaration that would bring federal funding to the recovery effort.

On January 16, Donald Trump responded by designating six hard-hit towns in the southern part of the island as major disaster areas. Hopefully this will result in an appropriate disaster response—one that will not negligently result in more forgotten aid.