A 6.4 Richter scale earthquake hit Puerto Rico at 3:24 AM on January 7, 9 miles from the southwestern town of Guayanilla, and was followed three hours later by an aftershock measuring 6.0. Those earthquakes unleashed small landslides, causing a general blackout across the island and severely cracking some homes on the island. It has been the strongest quakes yet to hit Puerto Rico, which has been shaking for the past week. Previously, a string of smaller tremors, including another quake measured at magnitude 5.0 that struck later on January 6 at 10:51 a.m. shaking power lines and frightening residents of southern Puerto Rico who had been waiting outside their homes due to fears the buildings were damaged and unstable. The first quake struck at 6:32 a.m. on January 6, just south of the island at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles), according to the U.S. Geological Service. There is a casualty, reported in Ponce, the second largest city of Puerto Rico, in the south. Also, the media described significant damage in the towns of Ponce, Guayanilla, and Guánica, towns in the south, and the southwest. There is no tsunami threat, officials said.
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Three Global Ministries Partner organizations are working on the assessment of the situation in the southwestern part of the island. The Reverend Edward Rivera, General Pastor of the United Evangelical Church of Puerto Rico (IEUPR, acronym in Spanish), has been traveling to the southwestern part of the island, to accompany pastors and congregations from the denomination, as they are already accompanying the people there. He reported that there are damages on three houses and a pastoral parsonage in Yauco, two houses in Guayanilla, and a church in “Calle Unión” (“Union Street”) in Ponce, that went down as a consequence of the tremors. They continue doing further assessment as there are some blocked roads in the south. The Reverend Miguel Antonio Morales, General Pastor of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Puerto Rico, reported that no damages had been suffered, at this moment, on the two CCDCPR congregations in the south (Ponce and Guayanilla). They are still working on the assessment for the families. Bishop Felipe Lozada, President of the Puerto Rico Council of Churches, has been in conversations with Presbyterian and IEUPR leaders to identify pressing needs at this moment. Out of the “Acuerdo de Caballeros” (“Gentlemen´s Agreement”), a missional agreement between agencies at the beginning of the 20th century for establishing congregations in the island, the affected zone is mostly covered by congregations affiliated by those two denominations.
As the island continues trembling, it is important to continue praying and to be in solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico at this moment. There are matters in this report that can change over the upcoming days.