Trump Approves Puerto Rico Earthquake Emergency Declaration

January 8, 2020 Updated: January 8, 2020
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Following a series of earthquakes that hit Puerto Rico over the past several days, President Donald Trump signed an emergency declaration to coordinate relief efforts.

Trump “ordered federal assistance to supplement Commonwealth and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from earthquakes beginning” on Dec. 28, the White House said in a statement on Wednesday. A powerful earthquake on Tuesday caused damage across the island and killed at least one person.

Reports said the 6.4 magnitude tremor knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of customers across Puerto Rico.

The new declaration from Trump “authorizes the Department of Homeland Security [and the] Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures,” the White House said.

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A collapsed building with a car crushed underneath, following an earthquake in Yauco, Puerto Rico on Jan. 7, 2020. All the occupants of the home are reported to be uninjured. A 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico, the largest in a series of quakes in recent days, and caused heavy damage in some areas. (J. Miguel Santiago Twitter via AP)
A map showing the location of the earthquake just off the coast of Puerto Rico
A map showing the location of the earthquake just off the coast of Puerto Rico on Jan. 7, 2020. (USGS)

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) called on Trump to approve the commonwealth’s request for aid.

“Now the island can fully begin its recovery process. I will continue to stay in contact with the leaders on the island and offer any assistance I can to help them along the way,” Scott wrote on Twitter after Trump signed the declaration.

Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vazquez signed an emergency declaration to give its government flexibility to respond quickly to the earthquake, she said on Tuesday during a press conference, according to CNN.

FEMA later confirmed it received her declaration and is “working closely with Puerto Rico Emergency Management Bureau” before two teams were deployed to the island.

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A home is seen collapsed after an earthquake in Guanica, Puerto Rico on Jan. 7, 2020. (Ricardo Ortiz/Reuters)

Puerto Rico has been hard-hit by natural disasters over the past several years, including two devastating hurricanes and flooding.

But hundreds of quakes have touched the island, including 10 of at least a magnitude 4 on the Richter Scale, since Dec. 28, the U.S. Geological Survey said on its website, reported Reuters.

In 2017, the commonwealth declared itself bankrupt, making it the biggest municipal bankruptcy ever in the United States.