Puerto Rico (The United States of America)

Mercy Corps responding to help Puerto Ricans affected by 6.4 magnitude earthquake

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The global organization will distribute solar lanterns and emergency cash in addition to ongoing disaster preparedness efforts undertaken following Hurricane Maria

San Juan, Puerto Rico -- The global organization Mercy Corps is responding in Puerto Rico to help people affected by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck the island on January 7th. Nearly one million people are still without power, 250,000 don’t have access to clean water and thousands of families have damaged homes and are seeking temporary shelter.

“As we’ve visited communities in the southwest of the island following the earthquake, damage to homes seems much more extensive than what is currently being reported,” says Karla Peña, Puerto Rico Director for Mercy Corps. “In addition to those in need of shelter after their homes were damaged or destroyed, we’re meeting so many families afraid to go back home out of fear of another big earthquake.”

In the coming days and weeks, Mercy Corps will distribute solar lanterns, equipped with USB chargers, and emergency cash to affected families. Solar lanterns provide a much-needed source of safety, light and energy to charge devices, and emergency cash enables families to purchase what they need most.

After Hurricane Maria, Mercy Corps began working to help communities become less vulnerable, better equipped and better prepared for emergencies like hurricanes and earthquakes. The organization has been transforming local community centers into resilience hubs complete with solar panels, community gardens, emergency kits and disaster preparedness training, reaching more than 60,000 people through the hubs. Following this week’s earthquake, the resilience hubs have activated their emergency preparedness plans and community members are gathering at the hubs to access energy, clean water and communication.

“During disasters, communities themselves are the first responders, and we’re seeing disaster preparedness efforts pay off in the aftermath of the earthquake,” says Peña. “Working with existing community centers helps get resources to the people who know their community needs best, and making sure local organizations have resources and access to technical expertise is critical for long-term recovery and ongoing preparedness.”

In the initial aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Mercy Corps provided nearly $300,000 in emergency cash and distributed 5,000 solar lanterns and 2,500 water filters to thousands of families living in mountainous or otherwise hard-to-reach areas.