Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez on Tuesday declared a state of emergency after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake killed at least one person in the south of the island and caused widespread damage.
Vazquez said that the declaration would allow for the activation of National Guard troops in the US territory still recovering from a devastating 2017 hurricane.
The US Geological Survey said the earthquake struck at 4:24am with the epicenter off the coast of the southern city of Ponce, and was followed by more than a dozen aftershocks.
It was the most powerful in a series of tremors that have shaken the island since Dec. 28.
Scientists initially sent out an alert about a potential tsunami, but it was later canceled.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said that the quake had forced an automatic shutdown of the power grid, already severely damaged by Hurricane Maria more than two years ago.
The worst damage appeared to be on the southwest coast, including Ponce, Guayanilla and Guanica.
A 73-year-old man died after a wall fell in his home in Ponce, El Nuevo Dia reported.
Eight others in the city were reported injured.
Two power plants in Guayanilla sustained major damage, the power authority said.
The city could be without power for two weeks, Guayanilla Mayor Nelson Torres Yordan said.
Celebrity chef Jose Andres announced that a charity he runs, World Central Kitchen, had started serving meals and distributing solar-powered lamps in quake-hit areas.
Vazquez announced that US$130 million in emergency aid funding would be disbursed.
On social media, people wrote of being shaken awake by the force of the earthquake.
One woman on Twitter said that she had been “wrenched from sleep.”
“Everybody is awake & scared all over,” she tweeted.
Guayanilla’s Inmaculada Concepcion church, built in 1841, was heavily damaged.
Volunteers salvaged statues and other valuable items from the ruins as a priest consoled distraught parishioners.
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