Puerto Rico's Governor Wanda Vasquez declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, January 7th after a powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck the south of the island, killing at least one person and causing extensive damage.
Vasquez said the decision would allow the revitalisation of National Guard Troops on US soil still recovering from the devastating hurricane of 2017, AFP reported.
“In 102 years, Puerto Rico had not experienced anything like this,” Vasquez said. “We are a resilient people. We have responded to many difficult situations. Now this has been asked of us one more time.”
The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the epicentre was off the coast of the southern city of Ponce, followed by more than a dozen aftershocks.
Witnesses on social media described the earthquake as "very strong" and lasting for up to 30 seconds. People wrote that they were awakened by the shock of the earthquake, AFP said.
It was the second day in a row that an earthquake struck the island before dawn, and terrified residents feared the cumulative impact on old buildings, the New York Times (NYT) reported.
In this regard, the governor warned that seismic activity is expected to continue in the coming days, as most of the island suffers from massive power outages. She said that a power station in the south was badly damaged. The power outages also caused about a third of the island to be without running water.
According to NYT, Vasquez warned people whose homes do not meet building codes to seek shelter.
“There is nothing to indicate from the experts who know these types of disasters that this is going to be bigger than what we have seen so far, but yes we will have repetitions and tremors that we will be feeling,” Vasquez said.
“This is going to be happening for the next few days. How long? We cannot predict,” she added.
Meanwhile, White House officials said that President Trump had been informed of the earthquakes and that the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Pete Gaynor, had been in contact with senior officials in Puerto Rico, NYT reported.