The Israeli humanitarian organization IsraAID is currently in Puerto Rico “assessing needs on the ground” following the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck the island last Tuesday.
Puerto Rico has been hit with dozens of tremors and small seismic events over the past 10 days, including Tuesday’s quake which killed one person, destroyed buildings and homes and left much of the island without power. Since then, there have been nearly 45 aftershocks of at least a 3.0-magnitude.
A 5.2 magnitude aftershock rattled the island on Friday afternoon and a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck on Saturday with its epicenter of the coast of Guanica, a city on the island’s southern coast.
Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority officials said that about 59,000 customers remain without power as of Saturday afternoon.
IsraAID’s team launched its initial needs assessment on Tuesday and traveled to the affected area the following day to determine the organization’s first response. The assessment focused on distributing relief, providing psychological first aid, and administering safe water and sanitation solutions for the affected population, the Israeli NGO said.
A response plan is being built utilizing IsraAID’s years of experience in disaster relief worldwide, focusing on water, sanitation and hygiene and mental health support, the organization said.
IsraAID has had a team in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria devastated the Caribbean island in September 2017, claiming nearly 3,000 lives and leaving communities without electricity for months. IsraAID’s longterm recovery program following that disaster has focused on providing disaster-resistant water access in the remote community of El Real, Patillas, developing community emergency response plans in the community and reinforcing post-trauma psychosocial support within the island’s education system throughout 2019.
Currently, a number of other areas are affected by the seismic activity in Puerto Rico including The Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Saint Martin, Sint Maarten, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Turks and Caicos Islands, US Virgin Islands, Caribbean Netherlands, Saint Barthélemy, Antigua and Barbuda, and Anguilla.
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In recent years, IsraAID has responded to multiple disasters across the region, including hurricanes in the Bahamas, Dominica, Puerto Rico, and the United States as well as the volcano eruption in Guatemala and earthquakes in Mexico.
Israel was among the first countries to deliver emergency aid to Guatemala in June 2018 following the deadly eruption of the Fuego volcano that left at least 75 people dead. The Israeli Foreign Ministry sent medicine, food, and blankets were delivered through its embassy in Guatemala and a delegation from Israel comprised of doctors and medical personnel days after the eruption.
IsraAID then joined the efforts, sending an emergency response team to distribute relief and conduct a comprehensive needs assessment. When its team arrived in Guatemala, it visited temporary shelters and distributed hygiene kits to evacuated families, NoCamels reported at the time.
In September 2017, a 71-member strong Israeli delegation from the Home Front Command arrived in Mexico some 48 hours after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake rattled the region, killing nearly 300 people. IsraAID and iAID also sent delegations to help with search and rescue efforts to locate trapped people in the rubble, The Times of Israel reported.
IsraAID has played a notable role in rescue, response, and relief for large-scale disasters including the deployment of an emergency response team to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in October 2018, following a 7.5 magnitude quake and tsunami which hit on September 28, 2018, killing nearly 1,500, and destroying more than 65,000 homes.
The Israeli NGO has also responded to the 2015 Nepal earthquake, 2013 Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. They have deployed teams to the Indian state of Kerala during disastrous flooding and to the Philippines during the recent typhoon and provide longterm support to communities to Nepal and the Philippines.