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Aftershocks In Puerto Rico

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Puerto Rico is being battered by Mother Nature again. There have been 1,200 earthquakes and tremors over the past two weeks on the island, including a strong quake this weekend and one on Tuesday that was the largest in a century. Homes and schools have been destroyed. There have been power outages. So far, more than 550 structures have been damaged. We've called Xiomara Caro to see what things are like there on the ground this morning. She's in San Juan, where she's been handing out supplies, like tarps. Ms. Caro, thank you so much for making the time.

XIOMARA CARO: Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can you describe the damage you've seen and how Puerto Ricans have been handling these earthquakes?

CARO: Yesterday, I got the chance to visit four different towns and specifically camps. There are, I would say, dozens or maybe even hundreds of camps of people who've either lost their homes, people who - their homes might have some damage - and other people who might not see structural damage but fear of walking back into their houses and have been sleeping on the streets for the last couple days. I can't describe, really, to you the level of anxiety - the combination of what people went through in Puerto Rico two years ago after Maria but also the lack of a coordinated and responsible response from the government - and that added to the fact that people in the south are feeling earthquakes maybe every 20 minutes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You say the response from the government has been slow. Do you have a sense of why that is? Is it just hard to get to the area? Do they not have the resources they need? What's going on?

CARO: No. I think this is an issue of political will, connected to the fact that Puerto Rico is a colony and an agenda that doesn't center the well-being of Puerto Rico - hasn't before the hurricane, hasn't in this moment. So it's connected to deeper stuff.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Xiomara, take me back to where you were yesterday. Can you just describe your interactions with people and what you were trying to do to help?

CARO: Yeah. I went to a town called Guanica. Guanica is one of the most impacted. And what I found there was hundreds of families under the sun, in parks - areas that they feel safer than being in their homes. For example, I spoke to this older woman. And she described to me how - she basically said, come with me. I'll be brave. My husband doesn't want to walk in ever again into my house. And I went to their home. It was interesting because she shared, you know, he built this home with his hands. And now, you know, he has this uncertainty about stepping back into it. So they are sleeping in their cars. They're sleeping next to their cars on lawn chairs. And they are uncertain about - when will this end? - but also what to do.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Just briefly, were there any aftershocks while you were there? And what did that feel like?

CARO: There were. We were standing in the middle of the street. We just stood and felt it and looked at each other. And, you know, the people locally were like, there's another one. Where are the kids? Where are the kids?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Xiomara Caro, who has been distributing humanitarian aid. She spoke to us from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Thank you very much.

CARO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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