Rotterdam resident amid millions experiencing Puerto Rico earthquakes


Credit: Raul Olivieri

PONCE, P.R. (NEWS10) — On Saturday morning, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Guanica, a coastal city in Puerto Rico. That’s the latest in a series of earthquakes that have shook the island since late December.

Raul Olivieri, a Rotterdam resident and small business owner has been in the city of Ponce attempting to celebrate the holidays with his family since the start of the string of earthquakes.

“I have personally felt over 600 earthquakes since the initial one in December,” Olivieri said.

He said his mother’s home in Ponce has sustained minimal damage, but the earthquakes have caused more damage to homes, schools, roadways and hospitals located on the south of the island.

Afraid of waking up in the middle of the night under rubble, Olivieri said he and his mother have spent the night sleeping in his car in a parking lot away from anything that could collapse on top of them.

He said people are sleeping on mattresses outside their homes because of the worsening conditions.

“There is a constant worry because you never know what’s going to happen next,” he said.

Olivieri’s wife returned to Rotterdam before the string of earthquakes struck the island and while he misses her everyday, he said he decided to stay in Puerto Rico to help with recovery efforts.

“As of right now I’m actually going to stay here and help whoever is in need,” he said. “Whether its emotional support or picking up a gallon of milk for a neighbor, I am here to help in any way that I can.”

Video showing earthquake from Yauco, Puerto Rico on January 7, 2020. Credit:  Ricardo Irizarry and Benny Rodriguez via Raul Olivieri

In the latest press release, FEMA said they expect power generators to be fully restored to the island by Sunday January 12.

They urge anyone who is unsettled by the uncertainty of the aftershocks striking the island to contact the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 to speak with a crisis counselor.

There are currently 30 shelters open with over 4,000 occupants. Reportedly there are more than 3,500 people in non-traditional shelters.

The United States Geological Survey said they expect the number of aftershocks to decrease within the next 30 days, but a large aftershock can cause a temporary increase in future aftershocks.

After the January 7 earthquake, Governor Andrew Cuomo deployed personnel from New York Power Authority to assist in emergency response efforts.

“During difficult times, the State of New York always stands with and supports our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico—and today is no different,” Cuomo said in a press release. “I am directing the New York Power Authority to deploy technical experts to work with the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority to restore power as quickly as possible.”

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