FEMA stays focused on earthquake recovery
By The Star Staff
Two years after the series of earthquakes that hit Puerto Rico at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, recovery work continues with the help of over $523 million allocated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The funds are being distributed among projects comprising the 14 municipalities of the southern, western and central parts of the island.
Among the structures sustaining the most damage because of the earthquakes were the schools in the regions, many of which had the “short columns” structural problem, which makes them more vulnerable to seismic events.
To repair those and other structural damages on more than 126 schools, FEMA allocated at least an additional $178.3 million in 2021 to the island Department of Education.
“Puerto Rico’s history changed because of these earthquakes,” said José G. Baquero, FEMA’s federal disaster recovery coordinator in Puerto Rico. “As of today, more than 518 projects have funds from the agency, mostly for schools and municipalities. We seek to take advantage of this unique opportunity to strengthen the structures where public education is provided and additional spaces within the affected area.”
According to FEMA, in addition to repair and reconstruction work for the schools, public buildings and roads, recovery efforts include private property debris removal. More than 86 residences in Guánica and Yauco have already been demolished, which will start the long-term recovery process for the affected families.
In this journey toward recovery is Janet Vega Padró, resident of the Esperanza neighborhood in Guánica, who lost her home because of the earthquakes.
“The first step has already been taken, which is the demolition,” she said, adding that she expects to begin rebuilding her home with the funds she received from FEMA.
Meanwhile, public buildings such as police stations, fire stations and judicial centers also received federal allocations for repairs. One of those obligations to the Public Buildings Authority was for over $8.4 million to repair facilities in affected municipalities.