The 6.4 magnitude earthquake that shook hundreds of Puerto Rican homes early yesterday morning has once again shown the fragility of our vital infrastructure.
This is a catastrophe has severely hit several communities in the southwestern coast of Puerto Rico and has triggered legitimate fear throughout the island.
This new test of nature has left the door open to the resilience of a society that refuses to remain idle in the face of adversity. These recent events help to understand our vulnerability to fault lines and tectonic plates activity since we sit at a tectonically active region. Although we have felt moderate quakes in the past decades, we are exposed to large earthquakes caused by seismic underwater activity of different magnitude and degrees.
Our brothers and sisters have suffered serious losses that are a painful warning of the dangers we face as we sit on a high seismic activity zone.
We extend our solidarity to the family of Nelson Martínez Guillén, who died in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Ponce. Households as well as government and commercial buildings collapsed or suffered significant damage.
The fact that the Agripina Seda school, in Guanica, collapsed, fortunately, the 434 students, teachers and support staff were not there, raises concerns about the vulnerable state of school buildings.
The government moved quickly amid the general confusion. The decision to cancel classes until next week is a wise decision that brings peace of mind to parents and students. Governor Wanda Vázquez took the correct decision when she ordered to inspect all school buildings before classes resume. ordering the inspection of all school structures prior to the start of the school year. This is part of the recovery and prevention efforts to avoid further damage, under the umbrella of the declaration of emergency following the earthquake and its aftershock.
However, it is important, as several experts have noted, that classes resume progressively once the government has thoroughly inspected the state of school infrastructure. This exercise is also of highly urgent nature for all those buildings that house large numbers of people.
Meanwhile, the island-wide power outage, and the delicate process to restore it, represent a clear proof that Puerto Rico needs to swiftly develop a modern energy system, resistant to natural shocks.
However, while on a state of alert, especially in the most affected areas, it is imperative to resume our normal lives as soon as possible. Production and education must return to the normal rhythm, cautiously and incorporating the lessons learned from the quake.
It will be also necessary to evaluate the activity detected by the Puerto Rico Seismic Network, and according to its findings, try to overcome this event that has triggered fear but has also left productive experiences.
The fact that, in areas close to the epicenter, hospitals have been evacuated suggests that health centers will have to be better prepared. Patients with chronic diseases should be provided with options to purchase their medicines in advance, under the medical coverage plans. Medicine supplies facilitate to prepare a proper emergency backpack with the items necessary to survive for two weeks. The Department of Health must address this issue in the face of the dire experience of Hurricane María.
Although the series of quakes, with very strong peaks, that have rattled the island is expected to stop in the coming days, we must all update our contingency plans.
In Japan, for example, many companies assign their employees a shelter in advance. And, in the case of public and private infrastructure, there are countries, like Chile, that, after strong seismic experiences, have modified construction standards with extremely strict regulations seeking to protect lives.
We must carefully face our new geomorphological reality, without feeling intimidated and must return to our routines considering the necessary precautions. This will make us stronger.