At Least One Person Dead After 6.4 Earthquake Shakes Puerto Rico, Causes Island-Wide Power Outage and Structural Damage

Debris from a collapsed wall of a building litters the ground after an earthquake struck Puerto Rico before dawn, in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico early Tuesday, killing at least one person and causing an island-wide power outage as well as structural damage to roads and bridges, especially in the southwestern part of the island.

There have been at least 24 aftershocks since the earthquake, the largest in a series of quakes, hit at 4:24 am. Federal agencies monitoring the activity say the tremors and quakes could continue for the next few days, according to Governor Wanda Vázquez.

At a press conference Tuesday morning, Vázquez announced the island is in an official state of emergency.

“We’ve never been exposed to this kind of emergency in 102 years,” she said in Spanish.

Government offices and schools were closed, and some hospitals, especially in the southwestern region, were evacuated for safety reasons. Residents, especially in the south, have been terrified to go into their homes for fear that another quake will bring them down.

Vázquez urged citizens to stay calm and asked public employees to stay home while authorities assess the damages. First responders, the governor said, were reporting to their usual areas. Authorities urged residents to stay home unless they thought their residences had structural damage.

“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,” Vásquez said.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., tweeted that he had been in contact with President Donald Trump and with FEMA about the situation in Puerto Rico.

Gov. Vázquez said that she has not received any communications from Trump as of 11 a.m.

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SOURCE: NBC News, Nicole Acevedo and Ben Kesslen