Disaster strikes Puerto Rico again, Polk woman prepares to help

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A string of earthquakes is bringing back memories of Hurricane Maria for people experiencing it firsthand and those living in the Tampa Bay area with loved ones in Puerto Rico.

“Once again, we’re in the dark,” said Ana Rivera, the founder and president of the Puerto Rican Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Polk County.

After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans began moving to the Tampa Bay area in droves.

Puerto Ricans are now the second-largest Hispanic population, behind Mexicans, in Polk County.

Now, they watch with fear as images of destruction surface from Puerto Rico.

A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico before dawn on Tuesday, killing one man, injuring at least eight other people and collapsing buildings in the southern part of the island.

That was the latest in a 10-day series of tremors. Governor Wanda Vazquez Garced declared a state of emergency.

While the destruction and distress are reminiscent of Hurricane Maria, the predictability is different.

People have time to prepare for a hurricane. Earthquakes can happen at any time.

“You’re shocked out and thrown out of your bed and you run out because you don’t know what’s going on,” said Rivera.

After Maria, River formed the group “BandAid 4 Puerto Rico” to collect supplies for the island.

Courtesy BandAid 4 Puerto Rico

She plans on activating the group once the island’s needs are assessed.

“It’s time to get things done. It’s time to get ready. I’ll put my Wonder Woman cuffs on and let’s go to it,” she said.

News Channel 8’s Staci DaSilva spoke with John Lago, who lives in the hard-hit city of Ponce.

While on FaceTime, Lago felt an aftershock.

“Every time we think that there’s going to be no more, another one comes,” he said.

He did not have power on Tuesday and he could not leave his home for fear he wouldn’t be able to make it back due to landslides.

He said when the big earthquakes hit, it feels like the ground is floating.

“There’s so many people that have PTSD from Maria and it’s like, as soon as a natural disaster or anything kind of starts happening, the island just enters into this widespread panic,” he said.

Back in Polk County, Rivera said the people of Puerto Rico are resilient.

“We can’t let that life be extinguished and have our island sink in to the middle of the ocean and that’s one of the things that scares me,” she said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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