6.5 quake strikes Puerto Rico amid heavy seismic activity

6.5 quake strikes Puerto Rico amid heavy seismic activity

A 6.4-magnitude earthquake rumbled across Puerto Rico on Tuesday, killing at least one person and knocking out power to virtually the entire island of more than 3 million.

An aftershock three hours later registered 6.0-magnitude. The temblors came one day after the island was shaken by a 5.8 magnitude quake that crumbled homes and triggered states of emergency across the island.

Tuesday’s quake was the largest in a series of quakes that have struck the U.S. territory in recent days and caused heavy damage in some areas.

Puerto Rican Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced ordered government employees, except for first responders, to stay home. She urged residents to follow the island’s emergency management social media sites for updated information.

“I hope everybody is fine,” she said on Twitter. “We urge you to remain calm and safe.”

Puerto Rico:Earthquakes destroy tourist landmarks Punta Ventana, Cueva Ventana and Ruinas del Fara

The quakes rocked an island barely recovered from Hurricane Maria, which smashed across the island in 2017, killing thousands, destroying thousands of homes and knocking out power for weeks.

Ponce Mayor Mayita Meléndez said at least one person died and eight were injured Tuesday in the southern coastal city. Teacher Rey González said his uncle was killed when a wall collapsed at the home they shared.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit at 4:24 a.m. south of the island at a depth of about 6 miles. The quake initially registered as 6.6-magnitude but later was adjusted.

Albert Rodríguez, in 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.

Monday’s quake unleashed small landslides, causing power outages and severely cracking homes. That quake destroyed a popular tourist landmark, Punta Ventana, a coastal rock formation that had formed a sort of rounded window. The Puerto Rico Tourism Company confirmed that two other sites, Cueva Ventana and Ruinas del Faro, also suffered irreparable damage.

Víctor Huérfano, director of Puerto Rico’s Seismic Network, said it was too early to determine the extent of damage from Tuesday’s temblors.

“We expect that this will be the largest quake for now,” he said. “The aftershocks will continue for some time.”

The flurry of quakes in Puerto Rico’s southern region began Dec. 28 with a 4.7-magnitude quake followed by 5.0. The preliminary location Tuesday’s earthquake was about 7 miles from Monday’s 5.8 earthquake. Over the past several weeks, hundreds of small earthquakes have occurred in this same region. 

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.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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