Puerto Ricans Leaning on Faith and Prayer Amid Fear of Deadly Aftershocks

Seen through the cut-out shape of a cross on a priest’s chair, a woman attends an outdoor Mass under a tent set up near the Immaculate Concepcion Catholic Church, which sustained earthquake-related damaged earlier in the week, following a magnitude 5.9 quake earlier in the day in Guanica, Puerto Rico, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. The morning quake caused further damage along the island’s southern coast, where previous recent quakes have toppled homes and schools. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

Puerto Ricans have been praying under a massive cloud of uncertainty about the future since suffering yet another 5.9-magnitude tremor after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake rocked the island last Tuesday, leaving one person dead and significant damage to buildings.

“A prayer circle in Ponce, Puerto Rico with a rainbow above at a time when earthquakes aftershocks are causing damage & fear – here, there’s a refusal to be mentally defeated, and for many people, a faith fueled belief that things will be better,” CBS This Morning lead correspondent, David Begnaud shared in a tweet from Puerto Rico Sunday amid reports of thousands sleeping outdoors to escape calamity.

The tremor on Saturday was about 8 miles south of Indios in the Caribbean Sea, the US Geological Survey said, at a depth of 6.2 miles.

On Sunday, the USGS also highlighted three likely scenarios that could play out for the earthquake-battered island over the next 30 days, including a 3% chance of “an earthquake significantly larger than the M6.4 that occurred on the 7 January.”

“A much less likely scenario than the previous two scenarios is that recent earthquakes could trigger an earthquake significantly larger than the M6.4 that occurred on the 7 January (i.e., M7.0 and above). While this is a very small probability, if such an earthquake were to occur, it would have serious impacts on communities nearby. This size earthquake would also trigger its own aftershock sequence, so the rate of small and moderate earthquakes would increase again,” the agency stated.

The USGS noted that the most likely scenario they expect to unfold based on the current seismic activity is that aftershocks will continue to decrease in frequency “and will be significantly lower in magnitude than the M6.4 that occurred on the 7 January.”

It was also noted that an earthquake occurring of similar size as the magnitude 6.4 tremor last Tuesday could also occur in an event called a “doublet.” A doublet emerges when two large earthquakes of similar size occur closely in time and location. If this happens, additional damage as well as increased aftershocks is likely.

“Only one of these scenarios will occur within the next month. These scenarios will change over time, like our forecast. The earthquakes in these scenarios would occur in the areas where aftershocks are happening now. Earthquakes in this sequence will continue to occur for days, months, or potentially years to come. It is very unlikely the aftershocks will cease completely within the next month,” the USGS said.

“Too much,” Israel Vélez Irizarry, 49, told The New York Times as he sought shelter in his car outside his aunt’s house. He, his wife and their three children have already spent several nights outdoors waiting for the tremors to end.

Puerto Rico’s largest newspaper, El Nuevo Día, reported 73-year-old Nelson Martínez Guillén as the first casualty of last Tuesday’s earthquake. A wall from his home in Ponce collapsed on him as he slept.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leonardo Blair