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State and city officials call on NY to provide Puerto Rican aid

A girl cycles past a home that partially collapsed after an earthquake hit Guanica, Puerto Rico, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. A 5.8-magnitude quake hit Puerto Rico before dawn Monday, unleashing small landslides, causing power outages and severely cracking some homes. There were no immediate reports of casualties. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

In the wake of two devastating earthquakes in Puerto Rico — Tuesday’s 6.4 magnitude earthquake which followed a 5.5 tremor on Monday — Governor Andrew Cuomo and some Bronx city council members are calling on New York to bring immediate aid and relief for Puerto Rico. 

“I am directing the New York Power Authority to deploy technical experts to work with the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority to restore power as quickly as possible,” Cuomo announced Monday.

Already on location for grid assignment from Hurricane Maria, a team of 10 electricity experts has been addressing recent blackouts and stabilizing “the island’s power systems to avoid power outages,” according to a statement from the governor’s office. 

On the city front, two South Bronx councilmen, Rafael Salamanca Jr. and Ruben Diaz Sr., both penned a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio calling on NYC to send building inspectors and emergency management personnel down to the island today as well.

“We strongly suggest that NYC Human Resources Administration be placed on high alert should New York City experience an influx of refuges seeking assistance in the wake of this disaster,” the letter stated, referring to the devastation Hurricane Maria wrought on the island in 2017.

The political duo has also helped organize a relief drive two Saturday’s from now on Southern Boulevard in the Bronx as well — an area bustling with Puerto Rican Americans

As far as the damage sustained by Puerto Rico so far, the commonwealth’s governor, Wanda Vásquez, declared a state of emergency and activated the territory’s National Guard. She said some 300,000 households remained without running water by late Tuesday afternoon, and several hundred people were in shelters in affected municipalities. She said she had not spoken to President Donald Trump by late morning.

Teacher Rey González told The Associated Press that his uncle was killed when a wall collapsed on him at the home they shared in Ponce. He said 73-year-old Nelson Martínez was disabled and that he and his father cared for him.

Eight people were injured in Ponce, Mayor Mayita Meléndez told WAPA television. Hundreds of people sat in the streets of the city, some cooking food on barbeque grills, afraid to return home for fear of structural damage and aftershocks.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit at 4:24 a.m. just south of the island at a shallow depth of six miles (10 kilometers). It initially gave the magnitude as 6.6 but later adjusted it. At 7:18 a.m., a magnitude-6.0 aftershock hit the same area. 

As of amNewYork Metro press time, one man is reported dead, with at least eight other people injured along with causing buildings collapses on the southern part of the island.

With AP reports

Alex Mitchell