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Local groups collecting money to help Puerto Rico quake victims

Money is being accepted through a Wesley Chapel restaurant and a GoFundMe page by Somos Puerto Rico Tampa and the Course of Action Foundation.

WESLEY CHAPEL — Two Puerto Rico advocacy groups in the Tampa Bay area are raising money to help victims of the earthquakes that have rocked the U.S. territory since Tuesday.

Somos Puerto Rico Tampa and the Course of Action Foundation announced the campaign Thursday in the wake of a magnitude 6.4 earthquake that killed one and injured nine, knocking out power, triggering landslides, damaging homes and setting off aftershocks.

Leaders of local Puerto Rico advocacy groups announce a fundraising campaign Thursday for victims of earthquakes that have rocked the island nation. From left, Yolie Cintron, Jeannie Calderin, Arlene Maria and Evelio Otero. [ JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ | Times ]

Donations are being collected online through the GoFundMe page Unidos por Puerto Rico Tampa. Checks also are being accepted at Rice N Beans, 27405 Wesley Chapel Blvd. The money will be used for humanitarian aid and to help people in need directly, said Jeannie Calderin, spokeswoman for Somos Puerto Rico.

Areas in need include communities in the hard-hit southwest of Puerto Rico, such as Guayanilla and Penuelas Guanica, said Evelio “E.J.” Otero Jr., a native Puerto Rican and founder of Course of Action Foundation.

The idea is to inject funds into local economies and businesses, Otero said. The money will help buy needed supplies locally, on the island, rather than shipping them in from Tampa.

“We want to help as long as necessary,” Calderin said.

More than 2,000 people were staying in government shelters as U.S. President Donald Trump declared an emergency and Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez activated the National Guard.

The declaration allows for $5 million in federal funds to be spent on emergency services. Larger amounts could follow if the island’s governor requests a major disaster declaration. The extent of the damage from the quakes has yet to be determined, and it is unclear how much money would be required to respond.

The Washington Post reported this week that Puerto Rico, with a population of 3.2 million, is still waiting on more than $18 billion in federal funding that was designated after hurricanes that struck more than two years ago.

Information from Times wire services was used in this report.