Puerto Rico’s schools were closed Wednesday as the U.S. territory continued to take stock of damage caused by a series of earthquakes, including one that registered 6.4 in magnitude on the Richter scale early Tuesday.
The Puerto Rico Department of Education released a statement Tuesday that schools would remain shuttered until the completion of a thorough inspection of all schools’ grounds. Teachers and other staff were also told not to report until further notice, with a few exceptions. The move to shutter schools and evaluate came in response to orders from Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced.
Southwestern Puerto Rico was closest to the epicenter of the earthquakes. Valeria Collazo Cañizares, a reporter for Telemundo PR, shared a photo of a severely damaged school in Guánica:
Escuela Agripina Seda en Guánica. Esto pudo haber sido una tragedia enorme. pic.twitter.com/XhnwP8cQzj
— Valeria Collazo (@ValeriaCollazoC) January 7, 2020
The earthquakes, which have resulted in at least one death and a wave of power outages on the island, hit schools still in recovery mode from devastating hurricanes in 2017.
See Our In-Depth Coverage: Putting Puerto Rico’s Schools Back on Track
A year ago, the education department on the island estimated that it would cost $11 billion for the schools to be repaired and brought up to safer building standards after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. It remains to be seen how much the earthquake set those efforts back. (Hurricane Maria made landfall in southeastern Puerto Rico, which suffered some of the worst subsequent damage.)
In the wake of the 2017 hurricanes, the average Puerto Rican student missed 78 days of school, according to one analysis.
The mayor of Guánica told the Associated Press that the damage to his community included three schools. “We are confronting a crisis worse than Hurricane Maria,” Mayor Santos Seda told the AP’s Dánica Coto.
Photo: A Puerto Rican flag hangs within the rubble, after it was placed there where store owners and family help remove supplies from Ely Mer Mar hardware store, which partially collapsed after an earthquake struck Guanica, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. (Carlos Giusti/AP)