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Scores Of People In Puerto Rico Remain Without Shelter, Power Days After 6.4 Quake

A Puerto Rican flag waves on top of a pile of rubble as debris is removed from a main road in Guánica.

Updated at 8:30 p.m. ET

Thousands of people in Puerto Rico still don't have permanent shelter three days after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake walloped the Caribbean island, killing one man and injuring nine people. Millions still don't have electricity.

The quake has displaced an estimated 2,000 people, according to the humanitarian organization Direct Relief.

Federal and local authorities are still assessing the damage from Tuesday's temblor, one of more than 500 earthquakes that have shaken the U.S. territory since late December, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

In fact, one independent scientific organization that tracks earthquakes tweeted that a smaller quake, registering at magnitude 3.2, hit Friday morning about 15 miles west of the port city of Ponce. Later Friday, a 5.2 aftershock struck and caused additional damage.

There are signs, however, that some semblance of normalcy is returning. Puerto Rico's electric utility, PREPA, tweeted Friday that roughly 80% of its customers have their power back on. Still, Puerto Rico's governor, Wanda Vázquez, tweeted Friday that the government continues to gather information so it can get food, housing and other aid to people impacted by the quake.

Celebrity chef José Andrés has mobilized his nonprofit World Central Kitchen to help serve meals for victims in Puerto Rico. He said on Friday that the kitchen is in its third day providing food for those in need, saying in a video posted to Twitter, "We are doing our best to make sure every need of everybody is covered."

President Trump declared an emergency in Puerto Rico on Wednesday, which expedites the flow of federal dollars to go toward a range of emergency assistance items. The move came a day after the island's governor declared a similar state of emergency, which among other things activated the National Guard.

National Guardsmen prepare to install a government shelter at the municipal stadium in Guayanilla, on Puerto Rico's southern coast.
Carlos Giusti / AP
National Guardsmen prepare to install a government shelter at the municipal stadium in Guayanilla, on Puerto Rico's southern coast.

As NPR reported Tuesday, the quake rocked the island at 4:24 a.m. ET, triggering a tsunami warning that was later canceled.

The most extensive damage lies in the coastal communities stretching from Ponce and Guánica along the island's southern coast. People in that area are comparing the quake and the government's response to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a devastating Category 4 storm that wreaked havoc on the island in 2017 and caused tremendous strain on Puerto Rico's government.

Some quake victims are sleeping outside out of fear that their homes are unsafe and uninhabitable.

"We have to remain outside because everything inside is destroyed," Brunilda Sánchez told The Associated Press. The 84-year-old has been sleeping out in the open on a government-issued cot in Guánica. "We don't know how long we'll have to stay here."

And for many of those without electricity, it's not clear when the power will come back on. Several power plants on the island have been damaged by seismic activity.

Jose Ortiz, the head of PREPA, told CBS News on Thursday that a power plant in Guayanilla, roughly a 30-minute drive west of Ponce, "will be out for probably over a year."

Ortiz told CBS that he has requested a specialized generator capable of producing 500 megawatts of electricity from FEMA, which is about half of what the plant could provide if it were fully operational.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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