Just when Puerto Rico was about to finish dusting itself off from the ravages of Hurricanes Irma and Maria that crippled the island in 2017, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck on Wednesday has scuttled rebuilding efforts, including its tourism industry.
One man dead
The quake has reportedly killed one man and left several other citizens injured. Although the casualty list could have been higher, the incident was the most severe quake to hit the island in more than a century.
But it leaves a tourism industry that had already rebounded from the hurricanes back in tatters. The loss will be economically devastating considering the hospitality industry accounts for 10 percent of Puerto Rico's economic activity. And coffers from what was a very good tourism year in 2019 were badly needed to rebuild the island's heavily damaged infrastructure two years earlier.
Tourism projections now bleaker
Almost all of the hotels damaged in 2017 had already reopened, including the popular Ritz and Caribe Hilton. The government also declared all public beaches were once again totally accessible and safe, while cruises were expected to deliver a record 1.7 cruise ship tourists.
This year's projections will be much bleaker, given the damage that could cost Peurto Rico's economy more than $3 billion in damages and foregone revenue. But tourism isn't exactly top of mind with the island's government, which quickly declared a state of emergency.
FEMA promises aid
Taking a little bit of sting out of the impact, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has promised up to $130 of emergency aid. Nearly 300,000 citizens still have no access to running water, while the power grid remains offline on roughly 75 percent of the island.
That said, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a release declaring the situation on the island poses no danger to tourists, as all ports remain open in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands which were also affected by the quake. Several parts of the Caribbean, sitting on an active seismic zone, have been affected by an ongoing series of quakes that started Dec. 24.