Moody’s: Earthquakes Could Delay Puerto Rico Recovery

Moody’s: Earthquakes Could Delay Puerto Rico Recovery

Moody’s: Earthquakes Could Delay Puerto Rico Recovery

By on January 16, 2020
(Feisdra on Unsplash)

Rating agency says ‘frequency of natural disasters’ could scare away investors

SAN JUAN — The recent earthquakes off the southern coast of Puerto Rico could worsen the island’s challenges as it tries to rebuild its already bankruptcy- and hurricane-battered economy, according to the latest Moody’s report on the commonwealth’s situation.

While acknowledging that the federally established Financial Oversight & Management Board (FOMB) for the island authorized $260 million in emergency reserve funding for related expenses, the rating agency’s report states the earthquake damage “will increase infrastructure improvement needs,” as the commonwealth continues to recover from the catastrophic damage wrought by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

Moody’s said “real economic output” on the island grew for the second straight year in 2019. It noted as positive economic trends a 1.3 percent increase in non-farm jobs—including manufacturing employment—over 2018, as well as the first slight increase in the population after a decade-long downward trend.

However, Moody’s says damage from last week’s earthquakes “is likely to blunt” this incipient post-hurricane recovery and “increase the risk of more residents and corporations looking to relocate.”

The island’s south coast has been rocked by hundreds of tremors since Dec. 28’s magnitude 5 earthquake, the most destructive of which occurred in the morning hours of Jan. 6 and Jan. 7, registering 5.8 and 6.4 on the Richter scale, respectively.

The earthquakes have damaged or demolished hundreds of homes, public buildings and businesses in the region—with most destruction located in the municipalities of Guánica, Guayanilla, Yauco, Ponce and Utuado. More than 8,000 people have been forced to leave their earthquake damaged or collapsed homes. As of Thursday, there had been 27 magnitude 4.5 or greater temblors since seismic activity began in the area Dec. 28, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

An island-wide blackout followed the Jan. 7 earthquake, which heavily damaged Prepa’s key oil-and-natural-gas-fired Costa Sur powerplant in the southwestern municipality of Guayanilla. The 50-year-old power complex, which covered a quarter of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (Prepa) grid capacity, may take up to a year to repair, Prepa Executive Director José Ortiz said.

“[P]rospects for a stronger recovery are hurt by an increase in the types and frequency of natural disasters,” the report states. “Disasters contributing to population erosion will likely remain on the minds of corporations looking to locate or expand to Puerto Rico.”

Moody’s report notes that on Jan. 8 the federal government declared an emergency in Puerto Rico related to the earthquake event and will provide 75 percent of the equipment and resources necessary for emergency recovery costs.

Estimates of earthquake damage losses range from a $110 million estimate, provided by the administration of Gov. Wanda Vázquez, to $500 million, according to reports of what the mayors of the affected municipalities have told the State Emergency & Disaster Management Agency. Economists say damages could top $1 billion when taking into account affected road and utility infrastructure as well as lost business activity.

The damage to the Costa Sur plant adds to the challenges facing Prepa, the report states, noting, however, that the public utility “has adequate liquidity to meet its needs.”

The rating agency points out that the commonwealth is in the final stage of evaluating proposals from private entities interested in taking over Prepa’s transmission and distribution operations, adding that a final decision will be announced “in the coming weeks.”

The report notes Puerto Rico is still recovering from hurricanes Irma and Maria, adding that key utility infrastructure assets, especially the electrical grid, remain “unreliable and earthquake damage posing further risks.”

While federal funding to rebuild and repair many assets was approved before the earthquakes began, the report states, the commonwealth has only received a fraction of the funds. The U.S. Congress approved $20 billion in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program assistance in 2018 to help rebuild after the catastrophic 2017 storms. Yet, only $1.5 billion has been released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which placed restrictions on further disbursements due to last year’s developments involving federal corruption arrests on the island and the massive protests leading to the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.

The report states that HUD Secretary Ben Carson is “reportedly waiting on process improvements before releasing the remaining $18.5 billion for remediation and mitigation projects across the island.”

In fact, HUD published Wednesday the mitigation guides that the commonwealth must use to establish how CDBG-DR funding may be distributed. The commonwealth will have 90 days to submit its plan and the federal agency will have 45 days to evaluate and approve or reject them.

Moody’s report states that the commonwealth is also working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to allocate additional disaster recovery funds. FEMA estimated recovery costs could reach $48.4 billion. To date, it has obligated $16 billion to start paying for approved projects, with $12.6 billion actually disbursed to fund construction and individual assistance, the report says.

Moreover, according to Moody’s, the economic situation on the island could be further complicated by the U.S. Treasury Department’s stated intention to phase out the creditability of Act 154’s 4 percent excise tax on the profits U.S.-based controlled foreign corporations on the island send back to their parent companies.

Calling the Internal Revenue Service tax credit a “favorable business tax credit for American companies based in Puerto Rico,” the rating agency said the ultimate outcome of the tax credit issue remains unknown given that the U.S. Treasury has not made a final decision. Act 154 revenues accounted for 15 percent of own-source commonwealth revenue in fiscal year 2019, ended June 30, the report says.

“[I]f the uncertainty results in corporations leaving, the likely result is fewer jobs for remaining residents and a decline in a key revenue source for the commonwealth,” Moody’s report reads.

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‘Traumatized’ Puerto Ricans rocked by another strong quake on January 10, 2020

http://news.trust.org/item/20200111010733-010sr

‘Traumatized’ Puerto Ricans rocked by another strong quake

by Reuters
Saturday, 11 January 2020 01:40 GMT

(Adds comment from Yauco resident, background on aftershocks)

By Ricardo Ortiz

YAUCO, Puerto Rico, Jan 10 (Reuters) – A 5.2 magnitude earthquake cracked walls and brought down power lines in Puerto Rico on Friday as the Caribbean island was recovering from its worst quake in over a century on Tuesday.

The latest quake took place at 6:26 p.m. (5:26 p.m. EST), with its epicenter around 4 km (2.5 miles) south of Indios on the southern coast, the U.S. Geological Service reported.

The temblor was felt in the capital San Juan and to the west authorities closed a road bridge near Caguas that was in danger of collapsing after cracks appeared.

Shaken residents in the south said it was the strongest they had felt since Tuesday’s 6.4 magnitude earthquake, which killed at least one person, destroyed or damaged about 300 homes and knocked out power across the island.

Ada Cedeño was among more than a thousand residents of the southern town of Yauco who spent the night in a local stadium, fearful their homes would collapse during another big quake.

“My nerves are on edge, we’re traumatized. I have a sister who is crying, she doesn’t want to go inside her house,” said Cedeño, 69, who with five other relatives set up camp beds among a sea of tents, canopies and blue plastic tarpaulin sheets.

The U.S. territory has been battered by hundreds of earthquakes and aftershocks since Dec. 28, causing structural damage to thousands of buildings and homes.

The island is trying to restore power to its nearly 3 million residents after Tuesday’s earthquake severely damaged its largest generating plant, Costa Sur.

Aftershocks were expected to continue for several more days following Tuesday’s major quake, the island’s earthquake monitoring agency told residents.

The lights stayed on in San Juan on Friday but there were reports on Twitter of new blackouts in the west of the island.

Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez and U.S. Senator Rick Scott on Friday toured the Costa Sur plant in Guayanilla and spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump by telephone about recovery efforts.

They said Trump pledged his support for Puerto Rico after he earlier in the week approved an emergency declaration to mobilize resources.

“I will work my tail off to make sure all the federal resources that can be available will be available,” Scott told reporters.

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s earthquake only around half of the Caribbean island has power and Scott said over 6,000 people were in emergency shelters.

Vázquez on Thursday said that, without another major earthquake, she expected power to be fully restored across the island by Monday.

Authorities have promised that outages will not be a repeat of the lengthy blackouts suffered following back-to-back hurricanes in 2017 that killed around 3,000 people.

The earthquake has added to Puerto Rico’s woes as it continues to recover from 2017’s Hurricanes Maria and Irma and goes through a bankruptcy process. (Reporting by Ricardo Ortiz in Yauco, Puerto Rico, and Luis Valentin Ortiz in San Juan; Additional reporting by Andrew Hay in New Mexico and Marco Bello in San Juan; Editing by Sandra Maler, Grant McCool and Daniel Wallis)

 

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‘Scarier’ Than Hurricane Maria: A Deadly Earthquake Terrifies Puerto Rico

‘Scarier’ Than Hurricane Maria: A Deadly Earthquake Terrifies Puerto Rico

The state of chaos that followed the 2017 storm robbed Puerto Ricans of any belief that their leaders could manage another natural disaster.

Video

0:09/1:38

transcript

Puerto Rico Earthquake Knocks Out Power and Collapses Homes

For the second day in a row, a strong earthquake hit Puerto Rico before dawn.

“Power in my room, here in old San Juan, is out. Open the door, if you can see it, just looking out on the rest of the city. And here’s the scene, so you can’t really make that much out. There are some lights still on.” “So epic! The power went out at the airport.”

For the second day in a row, a strong earthquake hit Puerto Rico before dawn.CreditCredit…Erika P. Rodriguez for The New York Times

PONCE, P.R. — The auditorium where Lenda Torres Rodríguez and some of her neighbors sought refuge on Tuesday after the latest in a series of earthquakes convulsed Puerto Rico seemed almost as unreliable as the houses they had abandoned. Every time a new aftershock hit, the windows made ominous cracking sounds.

So they huddled outside on beach chairs, or hunkered down in their cars, waiting for help from the government that by Tuesday evening had still not arrived.

“This is scarier than the water Maria brought,” said Ms. Torres, 44, recalling the last epic disaster that drove her from her home, Hurricane Maria in 2017.

The deadly government failures that left the island in a state of chaos for months after the 2017 storm robbed Puerto Ricans of any belief that their leaders could manage another natural disaster. With a sense of doomed inevitability, people have braced in the two years since for the next emergency that would once again leave them feeling unprepared and abandoned.

Seismic Activity
Why Are So Many Earthquakes Happening in Puerto Rico?

What they did not expect was for the menace to come from the earth rather than the sky.

The strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake that rocked Puerto Rico on Tuesday plunged almost the entire island into a blackout similar to the one following Maria, reduced some homes to rubble and triggered new fears that the government would find itself overwhelmed by catastrophe. It was the second big quake in two days.

Unable to catch a break from Mother Nature, few Puerto Ricans expressed confidence that public officials would protect them from new powerful quakes or the devastation they could cause. A United States commonwealth facing crushing debt and bankruptcy, on the heels of a political upheaval that ousted two governors last summer, found itself asking: Again?

“I prefer Maria,” declared Nicole Santos Torres, 21, Ms. Torres’s daughter, as she sat surrounded by relatives outside the Juan “Pachín” Vicéns Auditorium in Ponce, the biggest city in southern Puerto Rico, the region most affected by the quake.

A few people in a red Jeep distributed food late on Tuesday afternoon, the only thing many evacuees had eaten all day. Everything in the city was closed, leaving the streets dark and deserted, even of the police.

The government tried to ease widespread fears by sending some workers to damaged areas and promising that the electricity would be restored soon, at least in the areas away from the epicenter of the quakes. But Puerto Ricans heard similar pledges after Maria — and some people did not get power back for nearly a year.

“I don’t think Puerto Rico is ready for more devastation,” said Yesenia Ramos, 53, who lives in a two-story wooden house in Ponce. “And this looked the same as when Maria hit.”

Some homes still have faded and frayed blue tarps covering their roofs, never fixed after the storm. The federal government has yet to disburse all of the aid promised after Maria.

The roof of a middle school in the hard-hit town of Guánica, west of Ponce, collapsed, prompting worries about the vulnerable state of older buildings. Officials were unable to say on Tuesday if the schools, where classes have been canceled until at least Monday, had been constructed to withstand seismic activity.

20 mi.
30 km.

At least one person was killed and seven schools damaged, said Gov. Wanda Vázquez, who declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard. More than 750 people fled their homes, she said, and 300,000 customers were without water.

The tremors seriously damaged several power plants, and about 93 percent of the island had no power on Tuesday evening. An island that had already seen billions of dollars invested in its electric grid once again found itself in a familiar place: in the dark and in a panic.

“We are a resilient people,” Ms. Vázquez said. “We have responded to a lot of difficult situations. This has hit us once more.”

There were other eerie similarities to the hurricane. In San Juan, the capital, hopeful travelers crowded the airport, fanning themselves with bits of paper because the airport was running on generator power without air-conditioning. Long lines formed for gas.

At one of them, Nilsa Maymi, 52, said she was trying to stay off her cellphone to save the battery. She was deciding whether to buy fuel for her car or her generator — the same logistical calculation she needed to make two years earlier.

“I am worried that a stronger earthquake will come, and I don’t think we are prepared for something stronger,” said Ms. Maymi, a loan analyst. “I have never experienced this. It’s a bit like reliving the sensation from Maria.”

Electrical service had been returned to about 100,000 customers, José Ortiz, the chief executive of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, said at a news conference late Tuesday. He said they hoped to have everyone’s electricity back within two days.

“We learned from the mistakes of the past,” he said. “We want to do it little by little so that those who get their service back keep their service.”

Damage to the main power plant was severe, Mr. Ortiz said. One employee there was injured by a collapsed wall.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said he was dispatching technical experts from the New York Power Authority to aid in the response. Enduring electrical problems plagued the island after Hurricane Maria in 2017, and Puerto Rico’s former governor, Ricardo A. Rosselló, was assailed because he failed to call in the help of outside power companies.

After spending $3.2 billion, erecting some 52,000 new electrical poles and stringing 6,000 miles of wire from the federal government alone, the Puerto Rico electricity system was left in not-much-better condition than it was before Maria cut power to every home and business on the island. The former Federal Emergency Management Agency official in charge of the process was arrested in September, accused of steering work to one of the contractors with whom she was involved in a romantic relationship.

ImagePart of the Immaculate Conception church collapsed in Guayanilla, P.R.
Credit…Erika P. Rodriguez for The New York Times

On Tuesday, FEMA said it was in contact with island officials and was considering the governor’s request for an emergency declaration.

“This is more nerve-racking than Maria because for Maria we were warned, and we were aware of what a hurricane coming through Puerto Rico would be like,” said Harold Rosario, a spokesman for the mayor of Guánica. “But Puerto Rico has never experienced an earthquake this big. You never know when the ground will start shaking again, and if it does you don’t know if it will be a big earthquake or a small one.”

About half of the sirens that are supposed to alert communities to coming emergencies — such as tsunamis — are still not working because insurance companies denied municipalities’ insurance claims, said Carlos Acevedo, Puerto Rico’s emergency management commissioner.

Tuesday’s big quake, the latest in a series of temblors that began in late December, struck at 4:24 a.m. five miles southwest of Tallaboa on Puerto Rico’s southwestern coast, according to the United States Geological Survey. A tsunami watch issued by the local authorities was quickly canceled but led to widespread concern anyway. Strong aftershocks continued throughout the day.

On Monday, a 5.8-magnitude quake and aftershocks terrified residents, leveled homes and destroyed a well-known natural rock formation.

Nelson Martínez Guillén, 73, died in Ponce on Tuesday after a wall fell on him, Mayor Mayita Meléndez said. Ángel Vázquez Torres, the city’s director of emergency management, said nine people had been injured, including a woman who broke a leg after a wall collapsed on her; she was trapped in her home for three hours.

Carlos Correa, the shortstop for the Houston Astros, who is from Ponce, said on social media that he had been jolted awake by the tremor in the middle of the night: “I feel you’re never prepared for something like that.”

Image

Puerto Rico has been rocked by heavy seismic activity for the past week.
Credit…Erika P. Rodriguez for The New York Times

Image

A school was destroyed by the quake in Guánica.
Credit…Erika P. Rodriguez for The New York Times

In Guayanilla, another coastal town near the quake’s epicenter, the Immaculate Conception church partly collapsed. The church had withstood a huge quake in 1918 with some damage, the Rev. Melvin Díaz Aponte said. This time, both bell towers crumbled. The last Mass held on Monday took place in the outdoor courtyard because Monday’s quake made people nervous to be inside. On Tuesday, the courtyard was full of debris.

“We will rebuild,” Father Díaz reassured a member of his congregation.

Richard S. Olson, director of the Extreme Events Institute at Florida International University, said Puerto Ricans were likely grappling with an immediate sense of grief, as well as the constant reminder that sudden events can cause major shifts in their lives.

That sense of helplessness is exacerbated when there is little faith that government officials are getting infrastructure ready for quakes and storms, he said.

“To be blunt, all of these event losses are human-made,” he said. “I never use the term ‘natural disasters.’ That makes nature to blame.”

Yarimar Bonilla, a political anthropologist at Hunter College in New York, was in Fajardo on Puerto Rico’s eastern coast when the quake hit. She said people were particularly frazzled because of contradictory messages from the authorities about whether they were supposed to huddle under a table or seek higher ground. People were miffed by politicians who used the tremors as campaign opportunities, she said, even as it was increasingly unclear whether emergency management plans were in place.

“How are people in this situation supposed to react when this is such an improbable situation after already having gone through such an improbable hurricane situation?” she said.

Marcos Pagán, 31, of Lajas, watched the quake from the seashore, where he operates a water taxi.

“It felt horrible,” he said. “I thought it was the end of the world.”

Edmy Ayala reported from Ponce, P.R., Patricia Mazzei from San Juan, P.R., Frances Robles from Miami and Sandra E. Garcia from New York. Alejandra Rosa contributed reporting from San Juan, Ivan Penn from Los Angeles, Daniel Victor from Hong Kong, and Maria Cramer and Vanessa Swales from New York.

Image

Residents of a nursing home were evacuated in Ponce, P.R., on Tuesday.
Credit…Carlos Giusti/Associated Press
Tremors in Puerto Rico
Why Are So Many Earthquakes Happening in Puerto Rico?

Earthquake Strikes Puerto Rico, Toppling a Well-Known Natural Wonder

Earthquake Strikes Off Puerto Rico’s Coast as Island Braces for Storm

Patricia Mazzei is the Miami bureau chief, covering Florida and Puerto Rico. Before joining The Times, she was the political writer for The Miami Herald. She was born and raised in Venezuela, and is bilingual in Spanish. @PatriciaMazzei

Frances Robles is a national and foreign correspondent based in Miami. Before joining The Times in 2013, she worked at the Miami Herald, where she covered Cuba and was based in both Nicaragua and Colombia. @FrancesRobles

A version of this article appears in print on , Section A, Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: Temblors Jolt Puerto Ricans Torn by Storm.
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2020 Puerto Rico earthquakes – Is it safe to visit Puerto Rico with the recent earthquake activity in the news? YES

Is it safe to visit Puerto Rico?  The answer is YES.

Despite the recent earthquakes in the news in Puerto Rico, it is safe to visit.  First of all, most tourists arrive at the airport in SJU, San Juan, which is in the north central part of the island with a lesser number going to the airport in BQN Aguadilla, which is in the northwest corner of Puerto Rico.  The earthquake activity mostly affected the south central and southwest part of the island in Ponce and west of Ponce.  You should only be concerned if you are traveling to the south part of the island.  Power is on, water is on, roads, bridges, hotels are fine and in normal working order in perhaps 99% of the island.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_Puerto_Rico_earthquakes

2020 Puerto Rico earthquakes

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2020 Puerto Rico earthquake

2020 Puerto Rico earthquakes is located in Puerto Rico

Mayagüez
Mayagüez
San Juan
San Juan
Ponce
Ponce
2020 Puerto Rico earthquakes
UTC time 2020-01-07 08:24:26
ISC event 617125982
USGS-ANSS ComCat
Local date January 7, 2020
Local time 04:24 AST
Magnitude 6.4 Mw
Depth 10 km (6 mi)
Epicenter 17.916°N 66.813°WCoordinates: 17.916°N 66.813°W
Type Dip-slip (normal)
Max. intensity VII (Very strong)
Casualties 1 dead, 8 injured

At the end of December 2019 and in early January 2020, the southwestern part of the island of Puerto Rico was struck by an earthquake swarm,[1] including six that were of magnitude 5 or greater.[2] The largest and most damaging of this sequence occurred on January 7 at 04:24 AST (08:24 UTC) and had a magnitude of 6.4 Mw and a maximum felt intensity of VII (Very strong) on the Modified Mercalli intensity scale.[3] At least one person was killed and several others were injured.[4][5]

A 5.8 Mw  earthquake the previous day caused the destruction of a natural arch, a tourist attraction at Punta Ventana in Guayanilla.[6] A 5.9 Mw  aftershock on Saturday, January 11, damaged many structures, including several historical buildings as well as modern high-rises in the city of Ponce.[7]

Power was lost Island-wide immediately after the quake, and was increasingly restored over a period of a week. Damage to homes was extensive and, by 14 January, more than 8,000 people were homeless and camping outdoors in various types of shelters, with 40,000 others camping outside their homes, just in the city of Ponce only.[8] There were refugees in 28 government-sponsored refugee centers in the southern and central Puerto Rico municipalities of Yauco, Guánica, Ponce, Peñuelas, Guayanilla, Utuado, Maricao, Juana Díaz, Adjuntas, Sabana Grande, San Germán, Lajas, Jayuya and Mayagüez.[9] Damage to government structures was calculated in the hundreds of millions[1] and financial losses were estimated in $3.1 billion.[10] A power plant that supplied over a quarter of Puerto Rico’s energy needs was badly damaged was shut down, with repairs estimated to take at least a year.

The day of the main quake, January 7, Puerto Rico governor Wanda Vázquez Garced declared a state of emergency and activated the Puerto Rico National Guard and the Puerto Rico State Guard. That same day, she also made available $130 million in aid.[11] The White House also approved $5 million in federal emergency relief.[12][13] On January 12, the day after the January 11 5.9 aftershock, the governor distributed $12 million to six municipalities most affected by the quake;[14][15]

Tectonic setting

Puerto Rico lies at the highly oblique convergent boundary between the Caribbean Plate and the North American Plate. A separate Puerto Rico–Virgin Islands microplate has been identified based on GPS observations.[16] To the north the North American Plate is being subducted beneath this microplate along the Puerto Rico Trench. To the south of Puerto Rico the microplate is being thrust southwards over the Caribbean Plate along the Muertos Thrust system. On the upper slope and shelf the current style of faulting is extensional with a series of WSW-ENE trending normal faults, such as the Ponce Fault and the Bajo Tasmanian Fault.[17] Several faults are also known to cross parts of the main island.[18]

Earthquake sequence

The sequence began on December 28, 2019 with a Mw 4.7 earthquake, followed closely by a Mw 5.0 event in the early hours of December 29. Several earthquakes of M <5 occurred over the next few days, followed by a Mw 5.8 event at 10:32 UTC on January 6. The largest event, a Mw 6.4, occurred the next morning, followed by a Mw 5.6 event within 10 minutes and a Mw 5.0 about 15 minutes after that. The Mw 6.4 event had a focal mechanism consistent with normal faulting on a fault trending WSW-ENE.[3][2] A Mw 5.9 event was then logged on January 11 at 12:54 UTC.[19]

Losses

A man died in Urbanización Jardines del Caribe[20] in the city of Ponce as a direct result of the January 7 quake, and eight others were injured also in Ponce.[21][22] A woman died of a heart attack in the town of Guayanilla after a 4.36-magnitude aftershock hit overnight during the night of January 9 to January 10.[23] By January 10, two additional people had died of medical conditions attributed to the effects of the earthquakes.[24] Financial losses were calculated at $3.1 billion US dollars.[10] Ponce alone had sustained an estimated $150 million in damages by January 11.[1]

Damage

On January 13, it was reported that some 3,000 homes had been destroyed or significantly damaged.[25] The January 7 quake destroyed other structures, including the Agripina Seda elementary school in Guánica[26] and the Inmaculada Concepción Church in Guayanilla.[27] Also severely damaged by the January 7 quake were the La Guancha Recreational and Cultural Complex, which was made inoperable and where 24 establishments had to shut down their operations,[28] and Auditorio Juan Pachín Vicéns.[29] The Moscoso Building of the Ponce City Hall was also damaged.[30]

The January 11 aftershock inflicted further damage. Among the structures damaged by this aftershock were the Ponce Servicios municipal government building,[31] Museo de la Masacre de Ponce,[32] Residencia Armstrong-Poventud,[32] and Casa Vives.[33][34]

There were also rock and landslides.[35] Among damage to infrastructure, the 5.9 aftershock quake the morning of January 11 created a crack in a bridge, and was expected to delay restoration of power.[36] The Costa Sur power plant, which provides a quarter of the island’s power, had sustained “destruction on a grand scale”[24] and estimates said it would take at least a year for repairs to be completed.[37]

The quakes caused 28 families in Lares to lose their homes.[38]

Response

There was no electricity in Ponce and in most of Puerto Rico on Tuesday, January 7, the day of the 4:24AM earthquake.[39] “More than 250,000” residents island-wide were left without water and another half a million had no power.[39] Puerto Rico governor declared a state of emergency on January 7[40] and mobilized the Puerto Rico National Guard. On January 8, the day after the main quake, the Ponce municipal government registered 1,111 residents in city shelters, “not including hundreds more” who drove to government-designated meeting sites, such as Estadio Paquito Montaner, to sleep in their cars.[41] The parking lot at Auditorio Juan Pachin Vicens was also used as a meeting site.[42] The Bernardino Cordero Bernard Vocational High School was also used as a shelter.[39] The night after the quake, it was estimated that over 40,000 Ponce residents chose to sleep in their cars instead of their homes out of fear of more quakes.[43] By January 13 the number of refugees was estimated at around 3,000 Island-wide, but the municipal officials of some local governments believed that figure was probably about right for refugees in just their own single municipalities.[14] Another estimate out the number of refugees at 5,000.[44]

On January 7, the Puerto Rican government made available $130 million in aid.[11] Late January 7, FEMA confirmed that US president Donald Trump had issued a (non-disaster[12]) emergency declaration with a $5 million cap.[13] The $5 million emergency declaration monies were to be spent on emergency services only.[45] On January 12, 2020, Puerto Rico governor Wanda Vázquez Garced made a disbursement of $2 million to each of six municipalities most affected by the quake;[14] the monies came from the Puerto Rico State Emergency Reserve Fund.[15]

Scientific activity

On January 10, USGS and Puerto Rico Seismic Network (PRSN) scientists were working to install six sets of temporary seismometers near the southern coast to augment the existing PRSN instruments.[46]

References

 

“Magnitude 6.4 Earthquake in Puerto Rico — Afternoon Update on January 10”. USGS. USGS.gov. 10 January 2020. Retrieved 11 January 2020.

 

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Puerto Rico’s earthquakes pile up fresh challenges for the US territory

https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-01-10/puerto-ricos-earthquakes-pile-up-fresh-struggles-for-the-u-s-territory

Puerto Rico’s earthquakes pile up fresh challenges for the U.S. territory

Earthquake damage

A Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, church was heavily damaged in a magnitude 6.4 earthquake.
(Jorge Castillo / Los Angeles Times)
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‘Traumatized’ Puerto Ricans rocked by another strong quake on January 11, 2020

http://news.trust.org/item/20200111010733-010sr

‘Traumatized’ Puerto Ricans rocked by another strong quake

by Reuters
Saturday, 11 January 2020 01:40 GMT

(Adds comment from Yauco resident, background on aftershocks)

By Ricardo Ortiz

YAUCO, Puerto Rico, Jan 10 (Reuters) – A 5.2 magnitude earthquake cracked walls and brought down power lines in Puerto Rico on Friday as the Caribbean island was recovering from its worst quake in over a century on Tuesday.

The latest quake took place at 6:26 p.m. (5:26 p.m. EST), with its epicenter around 4 km (2.5 miles) south of Indios on the southern coast, the U.S. Geological Service reported.

The temblor was felt in the capital San Juan and to the west authorities closed a road bridge near Caguas that was in danger of collapsing after cracks appeared.

Shaken residents in the south said it was the strongest they had felt since Tuesday’s 6.4 magnitude earthquake, which killed at least one person, destroyed or damaged about 300 homes and knocked out power across the island.

Ada Cedeño was among more than a thousand residents of the southern town of Yauco who spent the night in a local stadium, fearful their homes would collapse during another big quake.

“My nerves are on edge, we’re traumatized. I have a sister who is crying, she doesn’t want to go inside her house,” said Cedeño, 69, who with five other relatives set up camp beds among a sea of tents, canopies and blue plastic tarpaulin sheets.

The U.S. territory has been battered by hundreds of earthquakes and aftershocks since Dec. 28, causing structural damage to thousands of buildings and homes.

The island is trying to restore power to its nearly 3 million residents after Tuesday’s earthquake severely damaged its largest generating plant, Costa Sur.

Aftershocks were expected to continue for several more days following Tuesday’s major quake, the island’s earthquake monitoring agency told residents.

The lights stayed on in San Juan on Friday but there were reports on Twitter of new blackouts in the west of the island.

Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez and U.S. Senator Rick Scott on Friday toured the Costa Sur plant in Guayanilla and spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump by telephone about recovery efforts.

They said Trump pledged his support for Puerto Rico after he earlier in the week approved an emergency declaration to mobilize resources.

“I will work my tail off to make sure all the federal resources that can be available will be available,” Scott told reporters.

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s earthquake only around half of the Caribbean island has power and Scott said over 6,000 people were in emergency shelters.

Vázquez on Thursday said that, without another major earthquake, she expected power to be fully restored across the island by Monday.

Authorities have promised that outages will not be a repeat of the lengthy blackouts suffered following back-to-back hurricanes in 2017 that killed around 3,000 people.

The earthquake has added to Puerto Rico’s woes as it continues to recover from 2017’s Hurricanes Maria and Irma and goes through a bankruptcy process. (Reporting by Ricardo Ortiz in Yauco, Puerto Rico, and Luis Valentin Ortiz in San Juan; Additional reporting by Andrew Hay in New Mexico and Marco Bello in San Juan; Editing by Sandra Maler, Grant McCool and Daniel Wallis)

 

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Earthquake forecast for Puerto Rico: Dozens more large aftershocks are likely

https://theconversation.com/earthquake-forecast-for-puerto-rico-dozens-more-large-aftershocks-are-likely-129874

Earthquake forecast for Puerto Rico: Dozens more large aftershocks are likely

Multiple strong and damaging earthquakes in southern Puerto Rico starting around Dec. 28, 2019 have killed at least one person, caused many serious injuries and collapsed numerous buildings, including a multistory school in the town of Guánica that luckily was empty at the time. These quakes are the most damaging to strike Puerto Rico since 1918, and the island has been under a state of emergency since Jan. 6, 2020.

This flurry of quakes includes onshore and offshore events near the town of Indios and along Puerto Rico’s southwestern coast. So far it has included 11 foreshocks – smaller earthquakes that preceded the largest event, or mainshock – with magnitudes of 4 and greater. Major quakes occurred on Jan. 6 (magnitude 5.8) and Jan. 7 (magnitude 6.4 mainshock), followed by numerous large aftershocks.

Seismologists like me are constantly working to better understand earthquakes, including advancing ways to help vulnerable communities before, during and after damaging events. The physics of earthquakes are astoundingly complex, but our abilities to forecast future earthquakes during a strong sequence of events in real time is improving.

Forecasting earthquakes is not a strict prediction – it’s more like a weather forecast, in which scientists estimate the likelihood of future earthquake activity based on quakes that have already occurred, using established statistical laws that govern earthquake behavior.

An undersea fault zone

Puerto Rico spans a complex boundary between the Caribbean and North American tectonic plates, which are sliding past each other in this region at a relative speed of about 2 centimeters per year. Over geologic time, this motion has created the Muertos Trough, a 15,000-foot depression in the sea floor south of the island.

This plate boundary is riddled with interconnected fault structures. The present activity is occurring on and near at least three interrelated large faults.

Multiple faults crisscross the eastern Caribbean. Those outlined in red have a potential to generate a large earthquake. The arrow at top right shows the direction of the North American plate’s motion relative to the Caribbean plate. Red stars denote intensity centers for past earthquakes. USGS

Faults are pre-existing weak zones between stronger rocks. In response to surprisingly small force (stress) changes, they rapidly slip to produce earthquakes. The “hair-trigger” nature of fault slip means that predicting the precise timing, location, and size of individual quakes is extremely challenging, if not impossible.

During an earthquake sequence, changing stresses act on nearby fault systems as stress is gradually redistributed within the Earth. This process generates thousands of protracted aftershocks.

Many earthquake sequences simply start with the mainshock. But it is not especially rare for scientists to recognize after the fact that foreshocks were occurring before the main event. Improvements in earthquake instrumentation and analysis are helping scientists detect foreshocks more often, although we have not yet figured out how to recognize them in real time.

Will one shock lead to another?

Researchers have known for over a century that the rate of earthquakes following a mainshock declines in a way that we can characterize statistically. There is also a well-established relationship between the magnitude of earthquakes and their relative number during an earthquake sequence. In most seismically active regions, for a decrease of one magnitude unit – say, from 4.0 to 3.0 – people can expect to experience about 10 times as 3s compared to 4s in a given time period.

Using such statistical relationships allows us to forecast the probability and sizes of future earthquakes while an earthquake sequence is underway. Put another way, if we are experiencing an aftershock sequence, we can project the future rate of earthquakes and what magnitudes we expect those quakes to have.

For example, as of Jan. 14, the U.S. Geological Survey forecast estimated a 3% chance of one or more quakes larger than magnitude 6.4 in Puerto Rico over the next seven days. It also noted that the region should expect between 40 and 210 smaller quakes, with magnitude 3 or larger – sizes that are likely to be felt – during that time.

With extended statistical modeling of earthquake sequences that include foreshock and aftershock probabilities, seismologists can forecast the likelihood of key earthquake scenarios to inform public safety efforts while earthquakes are occurring. For example, the USGS also estimated as of Jan. 13 that there was an 81% chance that the largest shock had already occurred – namely, the magnitude 6.4 quake on Jan. 7. The agency calculated a 17% chance that a closely sized “doublet” 6.4 earthquake could yet occur.

Recognizing in real time when a set of earthquakes is likely to be a foreshock sequence is a challenging and active area of earthquake forecasting research. Progress in the effective forecasting and communication of ongoing earthquake hazards could mean the difference between life and death for people in the eastern Caribbean and other seismically active areas on an increasingly urbanized planet.

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