Tampa Bay non-profits mobilizing to help Puerto Rico after quakes

Bay Area non-profits are preparing to send aid to Puerto Rico after an advance team left Tampa International Airport Wednesday morning.

A coordinator, two medics, and a dog handler arrived in Arecibo, Puerto Rico several hours later, where they began staging the arrival of supplies in the wake of 28 earthquakes that have hit the island since Dec. 28.

The family of Jose Vazquez, of Brandon's Boricuas de Corazon, isn't near where the bulk of the earthquakes have hit, but he has friends who are.

"It is very painful because you can't do anything because this is a natural disaster," he said.

Vazquez is coordinating relief efforts from the Bay Area.

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While most of the power is back on, 2,200 have lost homes and 4,500 are sleeping outside for fear of collapses. Running water is hit or miss, hospitals are overwhelmed and communication is spotty. Some are using cars to power cell phones. 

For a country still struggling two years after being devastated by Hurricane Maria, the destruction caused by earthquakes is almost too much to take.

But many are trying to help. Vazquez's group plans to see exactly what's needed and send goods collected in Tampa Bay.

"My family taught me 'principal en barrios,' [which means] when you are fine, always look out for the ones who have a need," he explained.

He says 26 non-profits from around Florida are raising money. The federal government is also releasing $8 billion in aid, which was approved after Hurricane Maria, but held it over concerns of mismanagement. However, the earthquakes put new pressure lawmakers to send help as soon as possible.

With another earthquake hitting Wednesday morning and more expected, Puerto Ricans know they're going to need more help. 

The question is, how much?

"We are very strong," said Vazquez. "We are people with a lot of hope. We always look out for each other."

The USGS says, over the next week, there is a 3% chance of a large aftershock. The worst was just over a week ago, with a 6.4 off the southern coast.

Damage is expected to be around $500 million. At least one has been killed.