One dead after second earthquake in two days triggers tsunami alert in Puerto Rico

Reports of widespread damage and power outages from series of shocks on island

Conrad Duncan
Tuesday 07 January 2020 12:49 GMT
Damaged houses and debris after 6.4-magnitude earthquake strikes Puerto Rico

A 6.4-magnitude earthquake killed at least one person and triggered a tsunami alert in Puerto Rico on Tuesday following another tremor which caused heavy damage in parts of the US territory on Monday.

The earthquake, which was the largest in a series of shocks in recent days, also triggered an alert for the US Virgin Islands and damaged one of Puerto Rico’s main power plants, reportedly causing an island-wide power outage.

Tsunami sirens were heard on the island before the alert was cancelled and officials have said they hope to restore power to the territory by the end of the day.

Albert Rodriguez, from the southwest town of Guanica, said there had been widespread damage in his neighbourhood from the quake.

“The road is cracked in the middle and it lifted up,” he told AP.

A coastal rock formation known as Punta Ventana, which was popular with tourists in the town of Guayanilla, collapsed on Monday after a 5.8 magnitude quake hit Puerto Rico.

Residents in the south of the island have been terrified to go into their homes due to fears that another shock could bring the buildings down.

Nelson Torres, the mayor of Guayanilla, told a local radio station on Tuesday that a church in the public plaza of his town had also collapsed.

It has been hard to verify reports of damage or injuries due to communications being down for much of the island, according to Victor Huerfano, director of Puerto Rico’s Seismic Network

“We expect that this will be the largest quake for now,” Mr Huerfano said, before adding that aftershocks will continue for some time.

Wanda Vazquez, Puerto Rico’s governor, has activated security measures on the island and said government offices have been closed for the day.

"We want everyone to be safe. That is why all work in the public sectors has been suspended today, so that you can be with your family, implementing your emergency plans," Ms Vazquez said.

The US Geological Survey has said the quake on Tuesday hit at 4.24am just south of the island at a shallow depth of 10 kilometres.

An initial recording of a 6.6 magnitude quake was later adjusted to 6.4.

The flurry of shocks in Puerto Rico’s southern region began on 28 December, with the shallow quakes occurring along three faults in the region: Lajas Valley, Montalva Point and the Guayanilla Canyon.

The US territory is still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm which caused major damage across the island in September 2017.

An estimated 2,975 people were killed in Puerto Rico alone in the storm, which led to the worst electrical blackout in US history and left thousands without power for months.

Additional reporting by AP

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