Puerto Rico Update

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has been in constant communication with our Presbyterian Leadership in Puerto Rico since January 6th, 2020. Two PDA staff members were on the island when the most powerful earthquake from the earthquake swarm (6.4) struck on Tuesday January 7th. The situation in Puerto Rico, especially in the south of the island, continues to worsen as the days go by. Since December 28, and until this date, multiple earthquakes and aftershocks occurred daily, some reaching the magnitude of 5.9. Public buildings, schools, houses, temples, bridges and roads have been severely affected. Thousands of people have left their homes for fear of a larger earthquake or because their homes are already compromised or completely destroyed. Today, about 8,000 people camp in government-based shelters and a similar or possibly greater number have established popup shelters around their homes or in public areas. 

The Rev. Edwin González-Castillo and Rev. Jim Kirk spent Tuesday and Wednesday visiting the impacted areas, meeting with local Presbyterian leadership, connecting with partner organizations through the Puerto Rico VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), communicating with FEMA personnel, and having a presence at one of the emergency shelters. Rev. González-Castillo, stayed on the island until this past Wednesday, supporting the work of the Southwest Presbytery and churches, visiting pastors and affected communities.

 Rev. González-Castillo and Rev. Kirk continue to stay connected since returning to Louisville. Since the 6th of January PDA has…

  • Approved two church damage grants.
  • Approved an initial assistance emergency grant for the Presbytery of Southwest to use to respond to the immediate needs of survivors.
  • Deployed two National Response Team members to assist the Presbytery of the Southwest as they continue their assessment.
  • PDA volunteers from St. Andrew Presbyterian Church from Pacifica, CA who were on the island when the earthquakes hit were able to help with donations in the immediate aftermath. Read their report here.

In addition to the response from the National Church there have been many individuals, congregations, and mid-councils that have reached out to offer support to those impacted on the island.

As a result of the planning and coordination that has taken place since Hurricane Maria, the Presbyteries of Northwest and San Juan have been supporting the response in the Presbytery of the Southwest. The Presbyteries of the Northwest and San Juan have donated immediate relief supplies such as water, food, and blankets. They have opened their churches to receive evacuees. The PDA volunteer host sites stand ready to receive disaster response volunteers and evacuees.

As the tremors and threat of another large earthquake continue it is clear that there will need to be a significant long-term recovery effort. PDA will support Southwest Presbytery and impacted communities in the long-term recovery. We invite you to be a part of that effort by making a donation to DR000015-PR Earthquake. Click here to make a donation online as well as for information on how to donate via phone or mail.

Not only have buildings and homes been shaken, but also the spirit of the people. The needs are not just physical, there are also emotional and spiritual needs. Please join us in praying for those impacted and living in fear as we affirm our faith that, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.”

May our support for our Puerto Rico family make this promise come to life in the lives of those impacted by this series of earthquakes!



Further reading:

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance making initial assessments of earthquakes in Puerto Rico (Presbyterian News Service)

Programa Presbiteriano de Asistencia en Desastres realiza evaluación inicial después de los terremotos en Puerto Rico (PNS)

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