Many residents afraid to go indoors after Puerto Rico’s strongest earthquake since 1918

Author: CBS News
Cars are crushed under a home that collapsed after an earthquake hit Guanica, Puerto Rico, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. A 5.8-magnitude quake hit Puerto Rico before dawn Monday, unleashing small landslides, causing power outages and severely cracking some homes. There were no immediate reports of casualties. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

A day after Puerto Rico’s most powerful earthquake in more than a century, scientists warn it’s impossible to predict when the tremors will stop. The 6.4 magnitude quake, Puerto Rico’s strongest since 1918, leveled buildings and killed at least one man in the southern part of the island early Tuesday morning, leaving more than 300 people homeless.

There have been nearly 1,000 tremors in roughly the last week alone and a state of emergency is now in effect. It’s just the latest blow to a community that is still feeling the lasting devastation of Hurricane Maria.

In Guanica, signs of the earthquake are everywhere. There are downed power lines, buildings reduced to rubble, and cars crushed beneath crumbled foundations. In some areas, it looks like a bomb went off.

First responders handed out water, provided medical care, and dispersed cots for hundreds of displaced residents as they prepared to settle in for the night.

Correspondent David Begnaud said there are people who feel safer outside than they do in their own homes because they’ve been dealing with earthquakes, as one woman said, seemingly almost every hour for the last seven days.

“[I’ve] never seen anything like this,” Felix Rodriguez said. “Never.”

Rodriguez kept watch over his elderly neighbor Tuesday night. Elsewhere, Rosalie Torres kept her children, 2 and 5 years old, close.

“We woke up. We’d been thrown around. Everything was shaking back and forth, back and forth. Everybody [kept] falling back down,” Torres said.

“Boom, and then it started shaking, everybody started screaming, running, people on the floor,” Torres’ mother-in-law Noelia DeJesus said.

DeJesus told correspondent David Begnaud the family had just finished fixing the damage to their home inflicted by Hurricane Maria. Now, they’ll be forced to start over again.

“Really, we don’t have no place to stay because our house collapsed,” DeJesus said. “I lost everything.”

Puerto Rico’s governor Wanda Vázquez Garced said Tuesday there was no way to prepare for the earthquake and warned families to evacuate because property can be replaced, but lives cannot.

The earthquake also destroyed a famous Puerto Rican landmark and natural wonder: The Punta Ventana arch.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is monitoring the situation in Puerto Rico and has authorized FEMA to coordinate relief efforts.

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