Chaffin Mitchell (UPI), Nicole Acevedo (NBC News), and the AP, among others, have reported on a magnitude-5.4 earthquake that jolted citizens in southern Puerto Rico on Saturday morning. A series of less powerful shocks followed ranging from magnitudes 4.9 to 2.6 in the area. The initial quake was recorded at 7:13 a.m., 6.8 miles south-southeast of Tallaboa, a small community in the south of the island, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed. Nicole Acevedo writes:
A 5.4-magnitude earthquake hit near southern Puerto Rico on Saturday, jolting many from their beds on an island where some people still remain in shelters from previous quakes earlier this year. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit just off the coast of Tallaboa, Peñuelas, and was felt in nearby towns — including Guánica and Guayanilla, where hundreds of homes were destroyed by a quake in early January that killed one person and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.
The temblor hit as Puerto Ricans remain home under a nearly two-month lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Reports of damage were still trickling in early Saturday morning, with at least one second-story balcony crashing in the southern city of Ponce, city spokeswoman Inés Rivera said. Meanwhile, cracks in homes were reported in Guayanilla. “Everything shook really hard,” Guayanilla spokesman Danny Hernández said by phone.
Ponce Mayor María Meléndez tweeted images of the damages Saturday morning while also urging people to “avoid going to the city center until we make sure everyone is safe.”
We will keep doing rounds all across the city to asses the structural damage in order to save lives in danger. We are going to keep everyone posted with updates on the current situation. [. . .]
Guánica Mayor Santos Seda told the AP that no major damage has been reported so far. “Thank God everyone is OK,” he said. “The infrastructure is already weak.” He said between five to 10 people remain in a shelter since the 6.4-magnitude quake that hit in January.
Rescue crews were deployed to affected areas, according to Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez. Vázquez said she was “in communication with several mayors” in order to “know firsthand what are the particular needs of each town.” Telemundo Puerto Rico reported that the governor will be visiting the affected areas. “If your structure is compromised, you should leave with your face mask and emergency backpack. Pay attention to any official information,” Vázquez told Telemundo in a statement.
The quake on Saturday knocked out power to area residents, with the power authority tweeted that it is “in the process to restore service.”
Several aftershocks hit the area, including a 4.6-magnitude one.
Víctor Huérfano, director of Puerto Rico’s Seismic Network, said that while it’s understandable many people are afraid and surprised by the quake, it’s not unusual given the seismic activity that began in the region earlier this year. “In the long run, it’s decreasing, but you can have peaks,” he said, adding that he expects strong aftershocks to continue.