On Tuesday, January 7, Puerto Rico was struck by a magnitude 6.4 earthquake south of Indios. Puerto Rico, still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Maria in 2017 when the island felt economic losses exceeding $1 billion in Ponce alone. Following the earthquake, CoreLogic expects the economic loss to be maintained within the $1 billion mark.
“I am concerned because Puerto Rico hasn't yet fully recovered from Hurricane Maria, and many of the homes on the island are designed for hurricanes and floods - they're basically built on stilts, which makes them very vulnerable to earthquakes,” said Leisha Delgado, Founder & CEO, Hello Solutions. “Our experience from Maria tells us that there will be challenges coordinating assistance efforts, and communicating with people in parts of the island without power, so they may not know how to get aid, or know that help is on its way.”
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), this event has been identified as the main shock event (with 97% probability). A magnitude 5.8 event that struck on January 6 in a similar location is now identified as a foreshock.
With Hurricane Maria in mind, much of the damage to homes in Puerto Rico is likely the cumulative effect of damage from different events. While in many cases of earthquakes, the cumulative damage refers to the foreshock, CoreLogic notes that damage is rather from the buildings that were partially damaged from Hurricane Maria in 2017 that have yet to be repaired, causing added uncertainty in loss estimation.
CoreLogic also notes that there is uncertainty from the effect of demand surge, where materials are in short supply from the repairs from Hurricane Maria.
“As such, there could be an additional spike in the cost of building materials and reconstruction work,” CoreLogic notes. “Because the island has been struck by two events in close proximity, repair costs could easily increase by up to 33% without federal or local government intervention.”