SAN JUAN (CBSMiami/AP) — A 6.4 magnitude earthquake and several other strong tremors rocked Puerto Rico Tuesday morning, killing one man and injuring at least eight others. It happened just one day after a 5.8 magnitude quake shook the island, according to the US Geological Survey.
The earthquake caused buildings to collapse in the southern part of the island and was followed by a series of strong aftershocks, part of a 10-day series of temblors spawned by the grinding of tectonic plates along three faults beneath southern Puerto Rico.READ MORE: Florida Woman Records Close Encounter With Alligator While Paddleboarding
CBS4’s Peter D’Oench spoke with people on Tuesday inside the baggage claim area at Miami International Airport after arriving from Puerto Rico.
“I woke up at 4:30 this morning and it was very scary,” said Jane Morales. “This was the first time I have seen something this strong. Now I am very worried about my family.”
“Yesterday and today, it was crazy,” said Jesuan Ruiz. “I was in my parents’ house and the glasses were breaking down along with the dinner table. A lot of stuff came down. I went with my kid and tried to stay on top of him because I was afraid the ceiling would fall down. You could hear the sound. It was like woo, woo, woo and It was really a scary experience. I wanted to get my family off the island but it was very expensive.”
“It was absolutely terrifying and the actual shock was very scary,” recalled Robert Lopez Erezarri. “In one sense we were lucky it struck so early in the morning because if later, a lot of people out and about could have been hurt.”
Francis Rodriguez was with her family.
“During the earthquake it was very frightening. Some things shifted all over the place. We have not experienced earthquakes like this in over a hundred years.”
Many residents are still shaken by memories of Hurricane Maria in September of 2017. It devastated the island and killed nearly 3,000 people. Some authorities have said most of the island’s infrastructure is in “poor condition.”
Miami resident Melinda Mizrachi spent her entire two-week Christmas vacation in Puerto Rico where she has family and a second home and felt the ground moving while she was there.
“I am not sure on what the magnitudes were, but I know one of them was at least a 5 and I was in my living room laying down on my sofa and my whole entire sofa was shaking and moving. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster ride,” described Mizrachi to CBSMiami.com.
Puerto Rico experienced a flurry of earthquakes since December 28, according to data from the USGS, ranging in magnitude from 4.7 to Sunday’s 5.8.READ MORE: COVID-19 Testing Sites In South Florida
All of the earthquakes appear to have been foreshocks to Tuesday morning’s largest quake.
Melinda and her teenage son returned to Miami on Sunday night, just before the two biggest earthquakes struck.
“I don’t know how my house is at the moment, but I have been told by a friend of mine that lives in my same neighborhood that the whole entire island is without power,” she said.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority is reporting widespread outages across the island after power plants shutdown to protect themselves. Authorities said two plants suffered light damage and they expected power to be restored later Tuesday.
Tuesday’s 6.4 quake struck at 3:24 a.m. ET, centered just off Puerto Rico’s southern coast, about 6 miles south of Indios town.
“My heart is broken,” said Mizrachi. “I am happy that my son and I were able to get off of the island, but a part of me wishes I was back there by myself being able to help out any way that I can. The island has just started to get back to some kind of normal from Hurricane Maria and to see this now and seeing pictures of homes, roads and buildings collapsing is just devastating to me. I am scheduled to go back there next month to run a half marathon but now I just want to go just to assess the damages to my home and help out any way that I can.”
Due to the recent earthquakes, Nova Southeastern University’s Puerto Rico Regional Campus is closed Tuesday. All classes are suspended, including for online students.
Seismologists say it’s impossible to predict when the quakes will stop.
CBS4 also spoke with Professor Jorge Duany, who is an expert on Puerto Rico and is also Director of the Cuban Research Institute at F.I.U.
“One of the most immediate concerns is that residents are scared and people are leaving the island but I think that will be a short term impact. I think the most important long term impact will be the structural damage to properties. There are hundreds of thousands of homes that could be vulnerable to earthquakes, particularly areas near the coast that are prone to flooding and tsunamis.”
Duany said the island was still recovering from the impact of Hurricane Maria three years ago and the turbulent times during protests against the island’s Governor. Duany said the island’s population was holding at 3.2 million and had stopped its decline after an exodus of some residents after Maria.MORE NEWS: COVID-19 Vaccination Sites In South Florida
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)