Bishop Peggy Johnson is asking members and friends of the Eastern PA Conference to offer heartfelt prayers as they learn and share the latest news about Puerto Rico’s continuing onslaught of earthquakes. A 5.9 magnitude quake struck the island on Saturday morning, Jan. 11, following the stronger 6.4 magnitude one last Tuesday. Aftershocks have been continuous.
Bishop Johnson also appeals to us all to please support the relief efforts of UMCOR (UM Committee on Relief) and its Methodist Church of Puerto Rico partner agency, REHACE, by donating funds now to Advance #901670.
You can also give through our conference’s Advance Special Project #0345PR for Puerto Rico, by sending your donations to the Eastern PA Conference Treasurer, at P.O. Box 820, Valley Forge, PA 19482.
Saturday morning’s earthquake struck southwestern Puerto Rico again but shook nearly the entire island. While there were no reported casualties, there were more landslides and damage to homes and businesses. More than 2,000 tremors have occurred since December 28.
Four thousand residents are still in shelters, and thousands more are living outside, afraid to enter or remain in their homes, for fear of more destructive quakes. Puerto Ricans reportedly are waiting to see if President Donald Trump will sign a major disaster declaration to authorize much-needed aid to this beleaguered U.S. territory.
Also, while FEMA has been working there, the island hasn’t received more than $18 billion in federal funding that was designated after hurricanes there more than two years ago, according to the Washington Post.
Volunteers in Mission (VIM) teams have been traveling there to do recovery and restoration work since those hurricanes; but the Eastern PA Conference’s latest team, scheduled to go Jan. 15, had to postpone its visit because of the quakes and the loss of access to electricity and water across much of the island. Bishop Johnson was to have been on that team.
Traffic reportedly was backed up Sunday in the hardest-hit mountainous areas, as Puerto Ricans came from near and far to bring supplies to their neighbors in need. Since Hurricane Maria, many Puerto Ricans say they’ve learned they can’t rely on the government in times of disaster.
“Puerto Rico has been experiencing this constant force of nature since Dec. 28, and the earthquakes have not stopped.” said Gusmary Blanco Mersie, the Methodist Church’s social media director and the mother of two young children. “The mental stress that these earthquakes are causing and the tremors that don’t seem to ever stop, is amazing.”
“Everyone is afraid to sleep because they’re worried about a building collapse. Babies don’t want to be in their rooms because everything moves and kids only feel safe in the park or on the street,” she reported. “The aftermath of this is going to be much bigger than we can imagine.
“The more people have knowledge of how serious and strong this situation is, many more people can help.”
Learn more from our previous story and from the UM News article “Puerto Rican Methodists tackle earthquake response.”