Archbishop calls for prayer, solidarity after Puerto Rico earthquakes

Damage caused by a Jan 7 2020 earthquake in Puerto Rico Credit Eric Rojas  Getty Images Damage caused by a Jan. 7, 2020 earthquake in Puerto Rico. | Eric Rojas / Getty Images.

In the wake of a series of earthquakes that left at least one dead, multiple injured and some 300,000 without water in Puerto Rico, Archbishop Roberto Octavio González Nieves called for prayer and solidarity among his people.

"A 6.7-point earthquake has just shaken all of Puerto Rico that is now without (electricity)," Nieves, Archbishop of San Juan Puerto Rico, said in a Jan. 7 tweet. "Prayer, serenity, solidarity and charity are important. We are one family!"

Since Dec. 28, Puerto Rico has been struck by a series of earthquakes of increasing strength, including a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that hit on Monday. The largest and most destructive thus far struck the country early Tuesday morning, measuring in at 6.4 in magnitude.

The region experienced multiple earthquakes and aftershocks in the following hours, including a 6.0 magnitude earthquake. Hundreds more are expected in the weeks ahead, the Miami Herald reported, prompting Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez to extend holiday breaks for schools, shut down public agency offices, and declare a state of emergency.

"We're talking about a situation that never happens in Puerto Rico," Vázquez said, according to the Miami Herald. "It's not like a hurricane where we can prepare, that we can see it coming... you have to be prepared."

Puerto Rico suffered devastating damages from Hurricane Maria in September 2017, and some regions of the island are still recovering from that destruction more than two years later.

In a statement Jan. 7, president of the U.S. bishop's conference Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles offered his prayers of solidarity for the people of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the earthquakes.

"I wish to express my prayerful solidarity on behalf of the bishops of the United States to the people of Puerto Rico and all those in regions effected by the terrible earthquake that took place today. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those who are suffering from this disaster," he said.

"The Church in the United States stands with you. In our prayer, we recall in trust that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, offering Himself to us and calling us to Himself even in our hardest hour," he added.

The 6.4 earthquake on Tuesday struck the southern part of the main island of Puerto Rico the hardest. Among the damage of that earthquake was the partial collapse of Inmaculada Concepción church in Guayanilla, a Catholic church built in 1841. Punta Ventana rock formation and arch, a popular tourist destination along the coast of Guayanilla, collapsed in the earthquake.

In the city of Ponce, some 15 miles to the east of Guayanilla, a 77 year-old man was killed by the earthquake while at least 8 others were injured. More than 250 people seeking temporary shelter in the town of Guánica in southern Puerto Rico were going to be placed in tents outside until the danger of further earthquakes and aftershocks subsided, officials told CNN.

Riko Gonzalez, a Puerto Rico resident, told CNN that "people are afraid to go to bed, to then be woken up to worse earthquakes than the day before."

Donations for disaster relief in Puerto Rico can be made through Catholic Charities USA at:

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