Deadly 6.4 Magnitude Quake Rocks Residents Awake In Puerto Rico
Swaths of southern Puerto Rico were awoke to find broken brick walls and felled power lines Tuesday, after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck before dawn. The major temblor hit a coastal stretch near the communities of Ponce and Guanica at about 4:24 a.m. local time, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The quake crumbled walls and destroyed houses — and it knocked out most of the island’s power after an automatic protection system kicked in, shutting down all of Puerto Rico’s power plants.
The unpleasant wakeup call represents just the latest jolt for Puerto Rico, which also endured a 5.8 magnitude temblor in the same area Monday morning. In fact, residents have now found their lives disrupted and their buildings damaged in a series of earthquakes over roughly the past two weeks.
“The past several weeks we’ve had hundreds of small earthquakes in the same region,” explains John Geiger, a geophysicist with the USGS. “It began on Dec. 28, when we had a 4.7-magnitude [earthquake] there. Since the 4.7, we’ve had over 400 magnitude 2+ earthquakes.”
At least one person died Tuesday in the city of Ponce, after one of the walls of his home crumbled on him, according to Puerto Rican officials. At least eight other people were also injured due to the earthquake.
Puerto Rico’s governor, Wanda Vázquez, announced that public sector workers would not be expected at the office Tuesday — with the exception of first responders, who are out working on rescue and recovery efforts.
A tsunami warning issued shortly after Tuesday’s earthquake has been canceled.
“I’ve never been so scared in my life,” one resident of Ponce, Nelson Rivera, told the Associated Press after fleeing his home near the epicenter of the quake. ” I didn’t think we would get out. I said: ‘We’ll be buried here.’ “
Tuesday’s earthquake comes just a day after a major earthquake toppled a local landmark, a natural rock archway along the coast known as Punta Ventana. The tourist attraction collapsed into the Caribbean Sea amid the tremors.
NPR’s Adrian Florido contributed to this report.
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