Puerto Rico reels under successive earthquakes; Catholic church damaged

A destroyed home is seen after an earthquake in Guanica, Puerto Rico, Jan. 6, 2020. A larger temblor of magnitude 6.4 rattled Puerto Rico before dawn Jan. 7, killing at least one person and destroying a Catholic church. (CNS photo/Ricardo Ortiz, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- At least one person has died and one Catholic Church was destroyed by the latest of a series of earthquakes to rock Puerto Rico.

A magnitude 6.4 quake shook people awake at 4:24 a.m. local time Jan. 7, less than 24 hours after a magnitude 5.8 temblor shook the island in the predawn hours of Jan. 6.

Advertisement

Aftershocks ranging in magnitude from 3.8 to 6 were felt throughout the island following the early morning temblor, reported the U.S. Geological Survey.

The continuous shaking has taken a psychological toll, said Father Enrique Camacho, executive director of Caritas of Puerto Rico, which is affiliated with Catholic Charities USA.

[Don’t miss the latest news from the church and the world. Sign up for our daily newsletter.]

"Right now we are helping the people with emotional support," Father Camacho told Catholic News Service Jan. 7. "What we fear is that we continue having these earthquakes. If we have bigger ones, the damage is going to be very, very, very bad."

The latest earthquake sent people scurrying from their homes into the streets from Ponce, the island's second-largest city, westward along the island's southern coast to the towns of Guayanilla, Guanica, Yauco and Lajas, all near the epicenter of the quakes.

Police in Ponce said a 73-year-old man died when a wall fell on him, reported El Nuevo Dia, Puerto Rico's largest newspaper.

Immaculate Conception Church in Guayanilla was severely damaged, Mayor Nelson Torres Yordan told a local television station. Photos posted by El Nuevo Dia showed residents removing the church's undamaged tabernacle to safety.

[Want to discuss politics with other America readers? Join our Facebook discussion group, moderated by America’s writers and editors.]

Father Camacho said the church had survived the island's major earthquake of 1918, only to be shaken apart by the Jan. 7 temblor. "The only church that remained on the street (in 1918) was that," he said. "Then 100 years later, with this earthquake, it is the one that fell down.

"That's really sad because it was a very historical monument, a tourist place," he added.

Father Camacho said he had been in contact with Bishop Ruben Gonzalez Medina of Ponce, where the cathedral experienced some damage. Mass was canceled Jan. 7 at the cathedral and numerous parishes across the diocese, he said.

"I talked with a priest in charge of social ministry in Ponce," Father Camacho told CNS. "He told me even himself he is not traveling to see what is happening (in the diocese) because they are afraid there could be more ruts in the road and their lives are in danger.

Puerto Rico has experienced a series of minor earthquakes beginning the night of Dec. 28-29 leading to the major shakers, reported the U.S. Geological Survey.

The most recent large quake knocked out power to much of the island, including the capital of San Juan. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority reported that all of its power plants went offline after its "auto protection" systems were activated.

The company reported damaged to one of its main power plants near the earthquake's epicenter, but that technicians were working to restore electricity to other parts of the island.

Archbishop Robert Gonzalez Nieves of San Juan tweeted soon after the quake Jan. 7: "A 6.7-point earthquake has just shaken all of Puerto Rico that is now without light. Prayer, serenity, solidarity and charity are important. We are one family!"

Father Camacho said if more powerful earthquakes occur, he feared damage in the rural mountainous center of the island, where housing is less sturdy, would be severe.

As for an immediate response, Caritas of Puerto Rico is in a holding pattern.

"We are waiting to see what are the damages," the priest said. "We are willing to help people reconstruct as soon as possible."

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

Advertisement

The latest from america

The setting of “West Side Story” is San Juan Hill, the nickname of the Lincoln Square area of Upper West Side of Manhattan—an area bulldozed and redeveloped into the Lincoln Center performing arts complex in the early 1960s.
Ryan Di CorpoFebruary 25, 2020
Lent is not the time for hating my body or ignoring it or making it suffer for things that I have done, no matter what the voice of my eating disorder says.
Amanda Martinez BeckFebruary 25, 2020
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden departs services at the Royal Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 23. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Bernie Sanders may yet unify the Democrats, writes Robert David Sullivan, but there are still questions about what to do if most primary voters oppose him.
Robert David SullivanFebruary 24, 2020
In this last week of Ordinary Time before Lent, take time to reflect on the ordinary blessings in your life and cultivate gratitude for them.
James Martin, S.J.February 24, 2020