Thousands of protesters took to the street in earthquake-hit Puerto Rico on Monday as a judicial investigation was opened into the weekend discovery of unused emergency supplies leftover from the devastating Hurricane Maria.
On Saturday, a Facebook user posted a live video showing a warehouse in the southern city of Ponce, filled with undistributed emergency supplies such as tents, diapers, baby formula, radios, batteries and thousands of bottles of water, which appeared to have expired.
Some of the aid was apparently intended for victims of Hurricane Maria, which ravaged the island in September 2017, killing some 3,000 people.
Governor Wanda Vazquez Garced said in a statement, “According to the findings that suggest inaction or omissions in the management of the warehouse and supplies by some officials,” the government referred the investigation to the Justice Department.
Some 5,000 people are living in tents after more than 1,000 earthquake tremors have rattled the US territory since December.
Many of those people went to the warehouse after the video was posted and raided the supplies stored there.
On January 12, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit Puerto Rico, the latest in a series of powerful tremors that have shaken the US territory in recent days.
Earlier, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake jolted Puerto Rico that toppled houses and caused power outages and small landslides but there were no reports of casualties.
The Pacific Tsunami Information Center in Hawaii issued a statement and said that there was “no significant tsunami threat” but a small possibility of tsunami waves along coasts nearest the epicentre.
Dozens of protesters also took to the streets of the capital San Juan on Monday against Vazquez Garced, in a scene reminiscent of July demonstrations demanding the resignation of then-governor Ricardo Rossello.
Rossello was forced to step down after the release of text chats in which he and 11 other male administration members made fun of Hurricane Maria victims.
In December, the quake was the strongest of a series that have rippled through the island and it was followed by at least eight aftershocks.
Puerto Rico doesn’t have a public earthquake warning system, except for sirens that are supposed to ring in case of a tsunami. Residents in this neighbourhood criticized the government for what they believe is a lack of action.
One of the largest and most damaging earthquakes to hit Puerto Rico occurred in October 1918, after 7.3-magnitude quake struck near the island’s northwest coast, unleashing a tsunami and left 116 people dead.
(With inputs from agency)