Midstate-based disaster relief organization renewing efforts in Puerto Rico following earthquakes

  • Rachel McDevitt

(Harrisburg) — A midstate-based disaster relief agency is renewing its efforts in Puerto Rico as the island deals with more than a month of earthquakes.

Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), based in Lititz, Lancaster County, has been helping people on the island since Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory more than two years ago.

Teams of volunteers have since replaced roofs and built homes across the island.

“We were setting our sights on closing down soon in the future, until the earthquake hit in January,” said executive director Kevin King. “And now the tremors continue and so will our volunteer response.”

The earthquakes started in late December and have kept coming.

One person was killed during a magnitude 6.4 earthquake on January 7. That event displaced thousands of people and cut off water and electricity to many more.

MDS and its sister organization Mennonite Central Committee recently delivered a shipment of 480 cartons of canned pork and turkey, 1,600 hygiene kits, 800 towels, and 900 comforters to the part of the island most affected by the earthquakes.

Volunteers are now working to make sure the structures they built can withstand the earthquakes. King said they are holding up well.

King added he’s proud of how local response teams are developing.

“We’re equipping them, training them, providing tools and vehicles, so that they can respond to these disasters locally and not be so dependent here on the mainland,” he said. “Ultimately, that’s our goal.”

King said people who want to help should  donate money to reputable charitable organizations.

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