Jan. 8 (UPI) -- U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico after the island was shaken by two significant earthquakes in two days.
The declaration allows health care facilities in Puerto Rico the flexibility to ensure sufficient health care and services are available to meet the needs of individuals involved in plans such as Medicare, Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program.
"We are concerned about potential impacts of this week's earthquakes on the lives of our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico. Across HHS, we have worked closely with the territory's health and human services authorities on disaster recovery and will continue to do everything we can to help ensure the health and well-being of people across the island," said Azar.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also activated the Disaster Distress Helpline in the U.S. territory, which provides 24/7 counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.
The scientific agency of the federal government also said Wednesday that it's sending sensing and monitoring equipment to Puerto Rico after the earthquakes.
The U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center said it will deploy new probes to supplement seismometers already in the U.S. territory as part of the Puerto Rico Seismic Network.
The USGS said the monitors should be operational by the end of this week and improve the agency's ability "to characterize and forecast earthquakes, which will help protect lives and property."
The center already works with the Puerto Rico Strong Motion Program at the University of Puerto Rico in collecting seismic data.
Puerto Rico was shaken by two earthquakes Monday and Tuesday with magnitudes of 5.8 and 6.4, respectively. A smaller magnitude-4.2 quake was recorded 10 miles southeast of Guanica on Wednesday.
At least one person died following Tuesday's event, which also triggered an island-wide power outage and damaged roads and bridges.
The White House said Wednesday President Donald Trump approved an emergency for Puerto Rico, and ordered federal aid to help recovery efforts due to earthquakes that have hit the island since late December. The action authorizes the Homeland Security Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate relief efforts.