'Traumatized' Puerto Ricans rocked by another strong quake

by Reuters
Saturday, 11 January 2020 01:40 GMT

(Adds comment from Yauco resident, background on aftershocks)

By Ricardo Ortiz

YAUCO, Puerto Rico, Jan 10 (Reuters) - A 5.2 magnitude earthquake cracked walls and brought down power lines in Puerto Rico on Friday as the Caribbean island was recovering from its worst quake in over a century on Tuesday.

The latest quake took place at 6:26 p.m. (5:26 p.m. EST), with its epicenter around 4 km (2.5 miles) south of Indios on the southern coast, the U.S. Geological Service reported.

The temblor was felt in the capital San Juan and to the west authorities closed a road bridge near Caguas that was in danger of collapsing after cracks appeared.

Shaken residents in the south said it was the strongest they had felt since Tuesday's 6.4 magnitude earthquake, which killed at least one person, destroyed or damaged about 300 homes and knocked out power across the island.

Ada Cedeño was among more than a thousand residents of the southern town of Yauco who spent the night in a local stadium, fearful their homes would collapse during another big quake.

"My nerves are on edge, we're traumatized. I have a sister who is crying, she doesn't want to go inside her house," said Cedeño, 69, who with five other relatives set up camp beds among a sea of tents, canopies and blue plastic tarpaulin sheets.

The U.S. territory has been battered by hundreds of earthquakes and aftershocks since Dec. 28, causing structural damage to thousands of buildings and homes.

The island is trying to restore power to its nearly 3 million residents after Tuesday's earthquake severely damaged its largest generating plant, Costa Sur.

Aftershocks were expected to continue for several more days following Tuesday's major quake, the island's earthquake monitoring agency told residents.

The lights stayed on in San Juan on Friday but there were reports on Twitter of new blackouts in the west of the island.

Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez and U.S. Senator Rick Scott on Friday toured the Costa Sur plant in Guayanilla and spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump by telephone about recovery efforts.

They said Trump pledged his support for Puerto Rico after he earlier in the week approved an emergency declaration to mobilize resources.

"I will work my tail off to make sure all the federal resources that can be available will be available," Scott told reporters.

In the aftermath of Tuesday's earthquake only around half of the Caribbean island has power and Scott said over 6,000 people were in emergency shelters.

Vázquez on Thursday said that, without another major earthquake, she expected power to be fully restored across the island by Monday.

Authorities have promised that outages will not be a repeat of the lengthy blackouts suffered following back-to-back hurricanes in 2017 that killed around 3,000 people.

The earthquake has added to Puerto Rico's woes as it continues to recover from 2017's Hurricanes Maria and Irma and goes through a bankruptcy process. (Reporting by Ricardo Ortiz in Yauco, Puerto Rico, and Luis Valentin Ortiz in San Juan; Additional reporting by Andrew Hay in New Mexico and Marco Bello in San Juan; Editing by Sandra Maler, Grant McCool and Daniel Wallis)

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