Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency throughout the island, and an order that activated the National Guard after a 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico before dawn on Tuesday.
The state of emergency declaration is important to access federal funds and aid.
“It’s important for the people of Puerto Rico to remain calm and to safeguard their lives and property,” Gov. Vázquez said in a press conference held on Tuesday. “Citizen security is a priority for me, so we are inspecting vulnerable areas and taking all the necessary measures to guarantee the safety of Puerto Ricans.”
According to Judd Deere, White House press secretary, U.S. President Donald Trump has been briefed on the earthquakes that have been occurring in Puerto Rico over the past month, including the one on Tuesday.
“Administration officials, including FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor, have been in touch with the governor and her team today, and we will continue to monitor the effects and coordinate with Puerto Rico officials,” Deere said on Tuesday.
At least one man is known to have died in the quake when a wall collapsed on him at his home in Ponce. Eight people were injured in Ponce, Mayor María “Mayita” Meléndez reported.
The Electric Power Authority (Prepa) reported an islandwide power outage after the power plants shut down in accordance with their safety protocol.
Authorities urge residents to stay calm as they evaluate damage reported at the Costa Sur power station and the power infrastructure.
All ports in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands remain open until further notice, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a news release.
Gov. Vázquez suspended labor for all government agencies so employees “can be with their families, implementing their emergency plans.”
The quake was followed by a series of strong aftershocks, part of a 10-day series of shakes spawned by the grinding of tectonic plates along three faults beneath southern Puerto Rico. Seismologists say it’s impossible to predict when the quakes will stop or whether they will get stronger.
Although a tsunami alert was issued on Tuesday for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after the initial quake, it was canceled soon after.
In the historic district of Ponce, some 15 miles east of the quake’s epicenter, authorities evacuated more than 150 people from two buildings they said were in danger of collapsing. Workers at Damas Hospital evacuated all patients except for those in intensive care, I order to ensure their safety.
As of 11 a.m. on Tuesday, the Puerto Rico Department of Housing had reported that 246 people were already in shelters within affected municipalities.
In Guayanilla, piles of rubble lay on the ground as an exterior wall of the Parroquia Inmaculada Concepción gave way and parts of it tumbled down.