Disaster team heading to Puerto Rico after devastating earthquakes

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In the aftermath of another large magnitude earthquake this morning in Puerto Rico, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the deployment of 35 disaster specialists to assist the island to rebuild and recover.

According to a news release from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, the deployment is in response to a request for assistance from the Puerto Rican government.

“California stands with the people of Puerto Rico,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in the statement. “Our nation-sized 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.”

A series of earthquakes over the past week have severely damaged infrastructure along Puerto Rico’s southwest coast and left more than 2,000 people in shelters. Nearly one million people remain without power and hundreds of thousands are without water. The deployment comes following a direct request for assistance from the Puerto Rican government to the California Governor’s Office.

The team of disaster specialists on this mission will consist of experts in incident and emergency management, engineering and safety assessment, planning, public information, debris management and crisis counseling. The California team will coordinate closely with Puerto Rico emergency management and public safety officials.

The team, which will deploy for 16 days, will be led by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and will include members from the California Department of Social Services, CalRecycle, Caltrans, and the Division of the State Architect within the Department of General Services.

The bulk of the 35-person Incident Support Team (IST) departed from Sacramento Sunday and will be deployed to San Juan, Puerto Rico initially.

“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’s Office and Cal OES are continuing to coordinate with the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to monitor for future requests for assistance. A magnitude 5.9 quake struck Puerto Rico Saturday, four days after a 6.4 magnitude quake in the same area and more than 1,200 mostly small quakes over the last 15 days.

Infrastructure has been severely damage and more than 2,000 people were sent to shelters. About a million were without power and hundreds remain without water, Cal OES said.

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