Seventh-day Adventist leaders in Puerto Rico are still baffled by a series of earthquakes which began yesterday, and culminated with a 6.4 magnitude tremor early this on January 7. The earthquakes have hit the southern parts of island the hardest, mainly in Guayanilla and Guánica, killing one person and injuring a dozen others, and causing power outages. There have been no deaths reported among church members.
“We have never as a country dealt with such earthquake in all my years,” said Jose A. Rodríguez, president of the church in Puerto Rico.
“At 4:24 a.m. I woke up to the house shaking, and then one aftershock then another. Sometimes it’s like 10 tremors a day, so there’s so much uncertainty for all of us here in Puerto Rico,” said Rodríguez, who lives in western part of the island. Even though the earthquakes have been strongest in the south, the entire island has felt each tremor, said Rodriguez.
“There is so much uncertainty now, bridges are down, roads have collapsed, power hasn’t been restored and many are taking refuge in parks and arenas,” he said.
So far, six members’ homes have been destroyed and local church leaders at the South Puerto Rico Conference are gathering information on the emergency needs of the members.
Classes at the three Adventist schools in the South Puerto Rico Conference have been suspended until next week, pending an assessment by engineers. Classes will not resume until those school facilities are declared safe to occupy, said Rodriguez. No major damage to churches or Adventist school facilities in other parts of the island has been reported.
Early this morning church leaders met with structural engineers to assess the third and fourth floors of the Adventist-run Bella Vista Hospital in Mayaguez. Engineers did not find any structural damage. Patients had to be evacuated briefly due to the power outage on those two floors, while the generator for those floors were stabilized.
Luis Rivera, treasurer for the church in Puerto Rico and chairman of the Bella Vista Hospital Board of Directors, said that “the hospital is operating within the limitations of the situation and running with the generators they have in place.”
Antillean Adventist University in Mayaguez also did not suffer damage.
Rodríguez and a team of leaders will drive to Guayanilla in the south tomorrow, Jan. 8, to visit the affected members and assess the needs so they can proceed to assist them and those in the community.
“It seems like we are still trying to fully recover from Hurricane Maria and now this, but we are thankful for God’s protection and ask our brothers and sisters around the world to pray for us,” said Rodríguez.
Many church leaders from across the church in Inter-America have called Rodríguez with words of encouragement and prayers.
Rodríguez will be visiting several radio stations later today to encourage the general public to stay calm and trust in God.
Church leaders will continue to assess the needs across the most affected regions and plan ways to assist in the coming days and weeks.