Locals with ties to Puerto Rico on edge after quakes

Published: Jan. 8, 2020 at 12:07 AM EST
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By Katie Kaplan | WCTV Eyewitness News

January 7, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. (WCTV) -- People in Puerto Rico are on edge while they brace for more aftershocks after a powerful 6.4 magnitude earthquake rocked the island. It was the most powerful quake in more than 100 years.

"You are having this series of earthquakes happening around this band here on the southwest coast of the island," explained Michael Martinez-Colon, an assistant professor at Florida A&M's School of the Environment. "It's a tectonically active, or geologically active, setting."

The island was placed under a state of emergency on Tuesday night. One person died. Martinez-Colon said, generally, there are hundreds of tremors that go unfelt every day, but the strength of the recent activity is not normal.

"This past week there are like four or five earthquakes with magnitude 4.5 or higher, and that is fairly uncommon to have in such a short amount of time," he said.

With the strength the recent quakes have shown, there are two main worries: A possible tsunami and the structural failure of homes and buildings on the island, some of which are still being rebuilt after Hurricane Maria in 2017.

"The structures are not to withstand these kinds of shakes," said Tallahassee resident David Medina, who has family back on the island. "We've been communicating via the internet and they are waiting outside the house, afraid to go inside their homes because they're waiting for the next big earthquake."

WCTV viewers may remember Medina and his wife, Gisela Rodriguez, from the "Mending Puerto Rico" series, which followed the couple in the aftermath of Maria. The couple worked tirelessly through their non-profit, The Gisele Marie Foundation, to help restore the homes so many Puerto Ricans had lost in the storm.

On Tuesday, the governor of Puerto Rico acknowledged to CBS News that the island does not currently have an earthquake preparedness plan. Martinez-Colon said it is not possible to know if more large quakes will follow. At this point in time, the aftershocks continue and the only thing people can do to help is to pray.

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