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Deadly Puerto Rico Earthquake Impacting Island’s Tourism



At least one person is dead in Puerto Rico and several more were left injured after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake rocked the island Tuesday morning.

According to the Washington Post, there have been at least 24 aftershocks since the earthquake hit Tuesday, which followed a 5.8-magnitude quake that struck early Monday morning off Puerto Rico’s southern coast.

The series of earthquakes and tremors started December 28, with the latest causing an island-wide power outage and structural damage to roads and bridges. As a result, Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez has signed a state of emergency for the island.

“We’ve never been exposed to this kind of emergency in 102 years,” Vazquez told ABC News.

While emergency personnel continue rescue efforts and begin cleaning up impacted areas, Discover Puerto Rico told TravelPulse key travel hubs such as Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, San Juan Cruise Port, Ponce Cruise Port and Airport and the Puerto Rico Convention Center remain open.

“We recommend that travelers currently in Puerto Rico or with upcoming travel plans contact their travel providers, hotels and local businesses to inquire about operations that have been specifically impacted,” Discover Puerto Rico said in a statement.

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In addition, tourism attractions and hotels in northern Puerto Rico, including San Juan and the surrounding areas, are operational. Even some of the facilities that lost power are running on generators and still open for business.

While the U.S. Geological Service said there is no tsunami threat to the island at this time, ferry service to the islands of Vieques and Culebra has been temporarily suspended.

Monday’s earthquake also damaged or destroyed several tourist hotspots, including the Guanica lighthouse and the Playa Ventana coastal rock formation in the southwest town of Guayanilla. The tower of the lighthouse built in 1892 survived, but one of its front walls collapsed.

As for the Playa Ventana coastal rock formation, the rounded window in the stone collapsed, with Guayanilla press officer Glidden Lopez saying, “Playa Ventana collapsed. Today our icon remains in our memory.”

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U.S. State Department Stops Issuing Passports Amid COVID-19



The U.S. Department of State has scaled back its Passport Agency operations and will no longer be issuing new passports in view of the situation surrounding the still-escalating COVID-19 pandemic.

Travel + Leisure pointed out that the release of this directive in late March coincided with the State Department’s issuance of a Level 4 travel advisory, which warns Americans to avoid all international travel and instructing those outside U.S. borders to return home immediately or risk being stranded abroad for an indefinite period of time.

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The Passport Divisions’ recent policy change mentioned that those who had already applied to obtain a new passport or renew an existing one prior to March 20, 2020, will not have their orders affected. The agency said that it would honor its commitment to fulfilling those expedited-service orders placed on or before March 19 within two to three weeks, door-to-door.

Moving forward, passports will be available only to persons facing qualifying life-or-death emergencies, such as serious illnesses, injuries or deaths in their immediate family, which require them to travel outside the United States within 72 hours’ time.

Such persons will need to not only provide their passport application and supporting documents, and proof of planned international travel (e.g. reservation, ticket or itinerary), but also proof of the life-or-death circumstance. This might include documents like a death certificate, a statement from a mortuary, or a signed letter from a hospital or medical professional, and must be translated into English.

To make an appointment at a passport center in the event of a life-or-death emergency, one must call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:00 a. m. and 5:00 p.m., or Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (EST); or call (202) 647-4000 outside of regular business hours.

No indication was given as to when the State Department would again begin accepting passport applications. As is now the case among most organizations that are attempting to respond to the continually evolving pandemic, its future plans remain up in the air. The announcement only stated, “The status of our operations may change quickly. We will update this notice as the status changes.”

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