NBC NEWS – A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico before dawn on Tuesday, killing at least one person in the largest in a series of quakes that have struck the U.S. territory in recent days and caused heavy damage in some areas.
A tsunami alert was initially issued for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, but later canceled.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit at 4:24 a.m., just south of the island at a shallow depth of 10 kilometers. It initially gave the magnitude as 6.6, and later adjusted the reading
Ponce Mayor Mayita Meléndez told Telemundo that a 77-year-old resident in her city on the island’s southern coast died after a wall collapsed during the quake.
Albert Rodríguez, who is from the southwest town of Guánica, said the tsunami sirens went off before officials canceled the alert. He said there is widespread damage in his neighborhood.
“The road is cracked in the middle and it lifted up,” he said.
Víctor Huérfano, director of Puerto Rico’s Seismic Network, told The Associated Press that he does not have immediate reports of damage or injuries because communications are down for much of the island. He said officials in the large southern coastal city of Ponce told him there was widespread damage.
“We expect that this will be the largest quake for now,” he said. “The aftershocks will continue for some time.”
Puerto Rico’s governor Wanda Vasqueztold local media and posted to social media that government offices will remain closed due to island-wide power outages. She urged citizens to remain calm and asked public employees to stay home until the government finishes an assessment of the damage and until circumstances are safer. First responders, the governor said, will be working and are reporting to their usual areas.
“Citizen security is a priority, so vulnerable areas are being inspected and all necessary measures will be taken to ensure the safety of all Puerto Ricans,” Vasquez said in a Tuesday morning statement.
The Electric Power Authority reported an island-wide power outage, but officials expect to restore power to the island later Tuesday.
A 5.8-magnitude quake that struck early Monday morning collapsed five homes in the southwest coastal town of Guánica and heavily damaged dozens of others. It also caused small landslides and power outages. The quake was followed by a string of smaller temblors, and Guánica opened a shelter for the several families that lost their homes.
One of the island’s most iconic landmarks, the Guánica lighthouse, built by the Spanish in 1892, suffered damage after the earthquake. Although the lighthouse’s tower survived, one of its front walls collapsed.
The shake also collapsed a coastal rock formation that had formed a sort of rounded window, Punta Ventana, that was a popular tourist draw in the southwest town of Guayanilla.
[GUAYANILLA] Desaparece la ventana natural en Punta Ventana, Guayanilla. pic.twitter.com/IN0LI7XuKK
— UPRM Meteorological Laboratory (@UPRMetLab) January 6, 2020
“Playa Ventana collapsed. Today our icon remains in our memory,” Guayanilla’s press officer, Glidden López, wrote on his Facebook page on Monday.
Residents in the south of the island have been terrified to go into their homes for fear that another quake will bring buildings down.
The flurry of quakes in Puerto Rico’s southern region began the night of Dec. 28. Victor Huerfano, director of Puerto Rico’s Seismic Network, told the AP that shallow quakes were occurring along three faults in Puerto Rico’s southwest region: Lajas Valley, Montalva Point and the Guayanilla Canyon.
He said the quakes overall come as the North American plate and the Caribbean plate squeeze Puerto Rico. The U.S. Geological Survey said the island has seen 11 foreshocks preceding Tuesday’s quake that were magnitude 4.0 or larger.
One of the largest and most damaging earthquakes to hit Puerto Rico occurred in October 1918, when a magnitude 7.3 quake struck near the island’s northwest coast, unleashing a tsunami and killing 116 people.
SOURCE: 6.4 quake strikes Puerto Rico