Puerto Rico Struck by 5.9-Magnitude Shock Amid Week of Devastating Seismic Activity

By Alyse Stanley on at

A magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck Puerto Rico on Saturday morning, one of three powerful shocks to wrack the island recently following weeks of smaller quakes. The shake further exacerbated the devastating effects left from last week Tuesday’s 6.4 magnitude earthquake, the strongest the area’s felt in nearly a century.

I’d usually quip something here about bad luck coming in threes, but at this point I’m just quietly begging the universe to, please, just let Puerto Rico catch a break.

Originally calculated at magnitude 6.0, Saturday’s quake hit around 9 am off the island’s southern coast, leaving roughly 5,000 customers without power, NBC News reported. Many of them had only just recovered it after last Tuesday’s temblor knocked out power across the island. The day prior, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake also shook the island, damaging homes and destroying a famous natural landmark, Punta Ventana. In total, this week’s string of seismic activity has killed at least one person and injured nine others, according to NBC’s report.

Witnesses reported concrete debris toppling into the streets Saturday as schools and homes already levelled by earlier quakes took further damage. This most recent earthquake triggered a landslide in the southern municipality of Peñuelas, forcing people to flee for their lives, Telemundo Puerto Rico reported. Puerto Rico’s second-largest city, Ponce, faces $150 million (£115 million) in damages and 700 residents rendered homeless in the wake of last week’s quakes, US Congressman Darren Soto posted on Twitter as he visited the island Saturday. He shared several pictures of the aftermath, including one of Ponce’s now-cracked bridge to the nearby town of Guánica.

According to experts, Saturday’s shake is technically an aftershock of last week Tuesday’s earthquake, one of several other 5.0 magnitude ones recorded overnight. “The one this morning is the strongest one,” US Geological Survey geophysicist Randy Baldwin told NBC on Saturday.

And it likely won’t be the last; the US Geological Survey has predicted a “high likelihood” of aftershocks measuring in the magnitude 3.0 range, as well as a 12 per cent chance for another measuring around magnitude 6.0 or larger.

While Puerto Rico regularly experiences earthquakes, such a barrage is a bit unusual. The island is “fairly seismically active,” Wendy Bohon, a geologist with the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, previously told Gizmodo, because it’s situated at the fault of two tectonic plates, the Caribbean Plate and North American Plate. Few earthquakes in the area have been as strong as this most recent onslaught, though. The last to even come close were a magnitude 6.1 earthquake that struck between Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in 1970 and a magnitude 7.7 quake that shook the island in 1943.