WASHINGTON — Over the last week there have been nearly 1,000 earthquakes or aftershocks on the island of Puerto Rico. A state of emergency is now in effect.
The power plant in Guayanilla that generates more than a quarter of the island's power was severely damaged by the tremors. A third of the island is in the dark. The island's power authority said around 900,000 people may have to wait up to a year to get their power back.
That means no fresh food and, in some places, no fresh water.
WUSA9 reporter Ariane Datil has family on the island, and has been tracking relief efforts closely. She spoke to Josh Phelps, who works with Chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen as a Relief Operations Manager.
Phelps is in Ponce, near the epicenter of the earthquake on the ground preparing meals, but he chatted via Skype about what it is like on the ground in Puerto Rico following the earthquakes.
Ariane Datil: Can you talk to me about how much food you’re able to distribute from this particular location?
Josh Phelps: From this location, we can do thousands of sandwiches a day. From the field location, where some of our chefs, like Manny, who have a paella operation, can do 15,000. And that’s going to be plenty to cover the people who are displaced at the moment. Things could change -- if the power stays out for a long time, the need could grow. There’s a school near here that has a 150 people, and then another stadium nearby that has about 500. So they’re all going to get hot meals for dinner.
Datil: Had your help on the island after Maria stopped completely before this started back up?
Phelps: In the sense of acute disaster relief, yes. But that transformed into our long term programs. The way World Central Kitchen is set up, there’s a relief operations and then there’s long term programs. There are a couple of programs, like "Plough to Plate," which work with local produce companies and works to get them grants, and get their products to the market. We’re here for the long-term.
Datil: Who is working there?
Phelps: Everybody is from [Ponce.] We’re at the epicenter of where the earthquake was, just jumping in quick to help each other. We just had a 4.9 about five minutes ago.
Datil: No way!
Phelps: Most people ran, so you still have to be wary. We encourage everyone to run outside when it happens, but it’s been so many earthquakes in the last two weeks and if you really look into the seismic activity it’s really been going on longer than that.
Datil: What is morale like on the island?
Phelps: It’s a really positive thing to see how everyone comes together at a time like this.
Datil: I mean, that’s mi gente. They’re going to do that every single time. After Maria they were in the streets singing and dancing and they said this is not going to defeat us. That’s just the nature of our people, but what I’m interested in is how our viewers can help you guys.
Phelps: Because of how strong the team is here, we’re not recommending people travel here, but every little bit helps even a small donation can buy a few meals.
Those interested in donating to World Central Kitchen can do so here.