Gold Country’s Victoria Donoso Reflects on Puerto Rico Quake Deployment

By Nick Blasquez, Red Cross Volunteer

PR1Four months after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake shook southwestern Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory continues to experience serious seismic activity – the latest a 4.2 magnitude quake on March 30.

This latest quake hit during a month-long curfew enforced to curb spread of the coronavirus.

The January earthquake left an estimated PR87,500 residents displaced. For American Red Cross Senior Engagement Specialist Victoria Donoso, the need for disaster assistance was too urgent to ignore.

It had been over 100 years since Puerto Ricans had experienced an earthquake of this magnitude. Houses made of cement to withstand hurricanes were defenseless against the tremors of a shaking earth.

“In this case, the biggest issue is the fear. People were fearful to go back into their homes, so they lost everything and just had to start again,” Victoria said.

PR7She deployed to San Juan after being requested for the job by name. Her role was three weeks as assistant director of workforce, only one of two trained for disaster assessment and emergency assistance.

On the front lines of the natural disaster, a unique challenge she faced was navigating the waters where Red Cross services met Puerto Rican governance. Sheltering and feeding was being done by the local government, providing services to only 2,000 residents who secured a place within the shelters.

PR6“People that were being counted were only those staying in government shelters, but the reality is there were encampments everywhere with sometimes hundreds of people who had never had anybody come out there to help them, yet.”

The primary role of the American Red Cross during this disaster was supporting the local government shelter efforts, but the undocumented encampments is where help was needed most.

PR5“Working with government agencies, they would notify us, ‘Hey, there’s an encampment of 80 people here. We need to get services to them,’” said Victoria.

She and her team of local volunteers traveled in vans to provide individual disaster care to those most in need. Water for those trapped under debris and so much bug spray to battle swarms of tropical biting insects. She would assess the encampments, reporting back on the condition of those present, especially those disabled and unable to seek shelter without assistance.

PR4Victoria had visited San Juan back in 1995, checking out the most populous, tourist-friendly areas of the city. This time around was different, experiencing the remote and devastated places few Americans will ever see, she was out in the jungle assisting people living in tents among piles of rubble.

Her personal takeaway? The resilience of the Puerto Rican people: always polite, generous, happy, and warm. “Very loving and very welcoming, I think this speaks a lot to the way they are going to handle the recovery process and the way they are going to persevere.”

Restoring Family Links Connecting US with People in Afghanistan and Pakistan after Earthquake

The Restoring Family Links website has been activated
in relation to the earthquake in Afghanistan and Pakistan – bit.ly/1ijHMXg 

A woman helds a tracing request.
A woman helds a tracing request.

Two days ago a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck Afghanistan/Pakistan with the epicenter in the Jerm district in the Afghan province of Badakhshan close to the border with Pakistan. Shockwaves were felt throughout the region.

AfganistanquakeThe Afghan Red Crescent deployed about 200 volunteers and staff to the affected areas to provide emergency relief, conduct assessments and assist with blood donation services. Emergency response teams are mobilized for search and rescue.

The Pakistan Red Crescent Society also immediately deployed to carry out relief activities. Emergency medical material to treat patients has been delivered to Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar and District Headquarters Hospital Swat.

Both emergency response teams are actively involved in tending to those wounded and providing basic assistance to the most affected people. It will take several days to have a clear picture of the extent of the damages as many areas are covered by snow and many roads are still blocked due to landslides.

The Family Linking website has been activated in response to this disaster.  The website is currently available in English, it will be followed by an Urdu then Pashto version.

earthquakeThis family links website offers people the possibility to:

  • Search through the list of missing persons and people who have responded that they are alive
  • Register names of persons with whom they have lost contact
  • Register names of persons who wish to inform others that they are alive

People can register in a form on the website, which is submitted to the Red Cross. Names will not automatically appear on the lists in the website. The names which people wish to make public will need to be processed by the Red Cross first, which is continuously updating the lists.

Inquiries will be accepted that meet the following criteria:

  • The sought person and inquirer must be family members
  • Inquiries must have the last known address information
  • Sought persons live in the affected area and had been in regular contact with their relatives

If anyone is unable to use the website contact the Restoring Family Links Unit at 202-303-5280 for further guidance.

Inquiries concerning U.S. citizens should be referred to the U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizens Services  at 1-888-407-4747.

Nepal from the eyes of the American Red Cross CEO/President Gail McGovern

CEO and President Gail McGovern and Chief International Officer David Meltzer recently returned from visiting Nepal following the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake. During their time in country, they visited remote communities impacted by the disaster, and spoke with earthquake survivors as well as Nepal Red Cross employees and volunteers, many who lost everything in the earthquake but continue to help others in need.

In this video, David interviews Gail about what she saw on the ground, what is most needed, and how our work in Nepal helped prepared many people ahead of the destruction.

Also see Gail’s blog:  Gail McGovern: Stories of Resilience from Nepal.

And remember, our community was able to raise close to $445 thousand dollars during the KCRA telethon just a few days after the quake. Thanks again!