SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Tuesday January 7, 2020 – At least one person is said to have been killed when a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit Puerto Rico this morning, following a 5.8 magnitude quake yesterday.
And the Seismic Research Centre (SRC) at the University of the West Indies’ St Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago says the region must be prepared.
The 6.4 quake struck at 4:24 a.m., with its centre located about 8 km south of the southern town of Indios, and was followed by several aftershocks, including two of magnitude 5.6.
Power outages and damage have been reported, including in the city of Ponce, where 73-year-old Nelson Martínez was killed when an inner wall that was under construction in his house collapsed. There has been structural damage to roads and bridges, especially in the southwestern part of the island.
Governor Wanda Vázquez told a press conference this morning that she has signed an order to declare an islandwide state of emergency.
“We’ve never been exposed to this kind of emergency in 102 years,” she said, even as she urged residents to stay calm.
Government offices and schools were closed, as well as some hospitals in the island’s southwestern region.
Vázquez asked public employees to stay home while authorities assess the damages.
“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,” she said.
Experts say yesterday’s tremor in the US Caribbean territory was a “foreshock” to this morning’s quake. The biggest earthquake in an earthquake sequence is called the mainshock. Mainshocks are followed by lots of smaller earthquakes called aftershocks. Occasionally an earthquake will be followed by a larger event, in which case the first earthquake is called a “foreshock” and the new, larger event a “mainshock”.
While yesterday’s quake caused damage to houses, no major injuries had been reported.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) says hundreds of small earthquakes have hit the island since December 28, including at least 29 over magnitude 4.0.
And on its Facebook page this morning, the SRC said “the recent earthquakes around Puerto Rico serves as a reminder that our region is seismically active and we always need to be prepared”.