National Guard Deploys as Puerto Rico Assesses Damage from Recent Quakes

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Puerto Rico Air National Guard, perform maintenance on a generator for the Joint Incident Site Communications Capability trailer at the command and control center in Cayey, Dec. 27, 2019.. (U.S. Army/Master Sgt. Caycee Watson)
Puerto Rico Air National Guard, perform maintenance on a generator for the Joint Incident Site Communications Capability trailer at the command and control center in Cayey, Dec. 27, 2019.. (U.S. Army/Master Sgt. Caycee Watson)

The Puerto Rico National Guard has been activated after the strongest earthquake in nearly a century shook the U.S. territory Tuesday, an Army news release announced.

Fort Buchanan had to rely on generators for a day, and at least one Department of Veterans Affairs clinic was closed Tuesday.

While half a million Puerto Ricans are still without electricity, President Donald Trump approved federal emergency funding early Wednesday. In addition to sending out the Guard, Gov. Wanda Vázquez-Garced and several of the island's municipalities declared a state of emergency.

The island has suffered a series of earthquakes since Dec. 31, leading up to a magnitude 6.4 quake Tuesday morning that killed an elderly man and injured at least eight people, The Associated Press reported. The wire service said most of the damage occurred in the town of Guánica, where a three-story school collapsed.

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Maj. Gen. José J. Reyes, adjutant general of the Puerto Rico National Guard, said his engineers will be inspecting bridges for damage and deploying emergency teams and tactical vehicles.

Fort Buchanan resumed normal operations after electricity was restored Tuesday evening; the garrison commander worked with the Guard to survey Army Reserve facilities from the air for damage.

The VA's Ponce Euripides Rubio Outpatient Clinic reopened Wednesday. It is contacting patients affected by Tuesday's closure to reschedule appointments and has fixed "minor damages," officials said.

Meanwhile, Tricare has instituted emergency procedures in Puerto Rico until Jan. 17. This means military personnel, retirees and military family members can take their prescription bottles for a refill at any Tricare retail network pharmacy, which can be found online or by calling Express Scripts at 1-877-363-1303.

However, Tricare encourages beneficiaries to first visit the pharmacy where the prescription was originally filled, if possible. If not, prescriptions filled through a retail chain can be filled at another store in that chain or, if the prescribing doctor is available, he or she can send a new prescription to any network pharmacy.

Tricare has set up emergency prescription refills for other natural disasters in the past, such as Hurricane Dorian and the California wildfires late last year.

-- Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at dorothy.mills-gregg@monster.com.

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