String of quakes is rattling Puerto Rico
GUAYANILLA, Puerto Rico — Thousands of people fled their homes on Puerto Rico’s Southwest coast on Tuesday after a 10-day string of earthquakes crescendoed in a powerful magnitude 6.4 temblor that crushed an elderly man, injured at least eight other people and sent buildings tumbling to the ground.
Hours after the predawn quake cut power to the entire U.S. territory, a large swath of Southern Puerto Rico was shaken by smaller quakes late into Tuesday afternoon. Seismologists said there was no way of knowing when the series of quakes would ease, prompting Puerto Ricans to stay with friends or family or even sleep outdoors far from the coast, fearful of collapsing buildings or a tsunami.
“I’m stringing up my hammock,” said Miguel Santana, a 38-year-old resident of the southwest coastal town of Guayanilla.
Alexandra Colberg, 27, moved out of her deeply cracked home in the nearby town of Guánica with her husband and four children, packing their mattresses, a refrigerator, a set of curtains and their clothes into two pickup trucks.
“What do I do with this?” asked her nine-year-old son, holding a tiny pink bucket with a pet fish that survived the earthquake.
“We need to go, because if not we could end up falling down there,” Colberg said as she gestured to the ground floor from the second story of her home. She and her family soon left for the mountain town of Hormigueros, where Colberg’s grandmother lives.
Most of the damage occurred in Guánica, where a three-story school collapsed.
The morning quake cut electricity to the island as power plants shut down to protect themselves. Authorities said two plants suffered light damage and they expected power to be restored later Tuesday.
Puerto Rico’s main airport was operating normally, using generator power.
Puerto Rico’s governor, Wanda Vásquez, declared a state of emergency and activated the territory’s National Guard. She said some 300,000 households remained without running water late Tuesday, and several hundred people were in shelters.
The Adripina Seda public school stands partially collapsed after an earthquake struck Guanica, Puerto Rico, Tuesday.