Thursday, March 23, 2023

Crumble in the Jungle

By on December 9, 2021

Rubble from collapsed structures blocks a street in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2020. Tremors large and small have terrorized the island for more than two weeks. (Erika P. Rodriguez/The New York Times)

Pimex-Commissioned Study Reveals Cracks in Seismic Contingency Plans

Editor’s note: This report was first published on Dec. 9, 2021, issue of Caribbean Business.

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It would be easy to think that after the swarm of earthquakes that shook southwest Puerto Rico in the first months of 2020 the government of Puerto Rico, learned a lesson from the Three Kings Day tremor and is now ready to quickly act out their plan ahead of the next seismic event.

A study commissioned by the Puerto Rico Manufacturing Extension (Primex), “Puerto Rico’s 2020 Earthquakes: Impact and Strategies of Small and Medium-Sized Manufacturers in Communities under Continuing Distress,” suggests otherwise; the issue of preparing commercial infrastructure for earthquakes [has not been] addressed with the urgency needed before another major earthquake strikes.

Beginning in 2020, the southwestern area of Puerto Rico was hit hard by a swarm of earthquakes, including 11 that were magnitude 5 or greater on the Richter scale. The largest and most damaging of this series were two that struck Jan. 6 and 7 with magnitudes 5.8 and 6.4, respectively.

The latter is considered the worst on the island since the 7.1 magnitude San Fermín earthquake in 1918 triggered a tsunami. And then, on Jan. 11 last year, there was also an aftershock that registered at 5.9 magnitude.

By mid-January, reportedly more than 8,000 people were left homeless and some 40,000 were camping outside in Ponce, the island’s second-largest city. And although human and infrastructure losses are usually given more importance when talking about the impact of earthquakes, the truth is that an event of such magnitude has repercussions on all aspects of society, including a direct effect on the economy of the impacted location, as well as on the mental health of its residents, the study on last year’s earthquakes in the southwest reveals.

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