California sends disaster specialists to Puerto Rico after earthquakes

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom has deployed 31 disaster specialists to aid Puerto Rico's rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of a series of earthquakes that struck the island last week.

Newsom announced his plans following a 6.1 magnitude aftershock eight miles offshore Saturday that followed a series of earthquakes that severely damaged infrastructure along the island's southwest coast. More than 2,000 were evacuated to shelters, nearly one million remain without power and hundreds of thousands are without water, according to the governor’s office.

Puerto Rico declared a state of emergency last week after several earthquakes hit including a 6.4 magnitude earthquake that killed a man and left hundreds without power. The deployment comes following a direct request for assistance from the Puerto Rican government to the California governor’s office.

“California stands with the people of Puerto Rico,” Newsom said. “Our state knows first-hand the devastating toll of natural disasters and we will provide aid and support as our brothers and sisters rebuild and recover.”

The team, which will deploy for 16 days, will be led by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and will include members from the California Department of Social Services, the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, the Department of Transportation, and the Division of the State Architect within the Department of General Services.

The bulk of the 31-person incident management team was expected to depart from Sacramento to an initial deployment in San Juan Sunday morning.

“The destruction by these earthquakes is clearly severe and widespread,” said Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci. “Here in California, we have some of the most talented and experienced emergency management staff in the world. We are ready to provide their valuable skill sets to our partners in Puerto Rico.”

The Governor sent four California Urban Search & Rescue team members from Sacramento City Fire and the Orange County Fire Authority earlier in the week to assist with search and rescue operations.

California has an active recent history of assisting other governments beyond its borders during a crisis. In August 2019, Cal OES coordinated the deployment of a 10-person incident management team with Cal OES and the California Department of Social Services staff to assist the State of Florida following the impacts of Hurricane Dorian. Emergency management specialists were also deployed to Florida in October 2018 for Hurricane Michael and to South Carolina in September 2018 for Hurricane Florence.

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Natural disasters Commonwealth of Puerto Rico California Puerto Rico