Major Earthquakes in Puerto Rico


(Photo: Alejandro Granadillo/Getty Images)

Natalie Kees

In the past week, three major earthquakes struck the small island of Puerto Rico; the first earthquake on January 7, the second on January 10, and the third on January 11. The natural disasters have killed at least one person and injured many others, resulting in President Trump calling a state of emergency. These earthquakes also add to Puerto Rico’s troubles, as it continues to recover from Hurricanes Maria and Irma, which killed nearly 3,000 people in 2017.

The first earthquake, which hit Puerto Rico four days before the second one struck, knocked out the Costa Sur power plant in the southern town of Guayanilla, triggering an island-wide power outage. The power plant could remain offline for “perhaps up to one year,” according to José Ortiz, the head of Puerto Rico’s power authority. Utility crews are scrambling to fix downed lines, and residents are relying on backyard generators to power lights, refrigerators, and phone chargers. After the first earthquake, which had a magnitude of 6.4, many people on the southern part of the island set up house outside, fearful another quake could collapse their homes.

Their fears were confirmed just a few days later when the second major earthquake, an aftershock of the first one with a magnitude of 5.2, hit Puerto Rico’s southern coast. This second earthquake destroyed more homes and buildings, as well as set back recovery efforts from the first earthquake. Many feared that this would not be the last  aftershock earthquake to strike Puerto Rico.

And it wasn’t. Just a day later, the third major earthquake struck about eight miles south of Indios in the Caribbean Sea, with a magnitude of 5.9. The third major earthquake left 59,000 people across the island of Puerto Rico without power, according to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority officials. As more and more buildings crumbled on the island, the island’s residents, most without power and many without homes, schools, or jobs, are on edge even more than before.

So far, the estimated cost of the damage caused by the earthquakes in Puerto Rico is a staggering $110 million. There’s no way of knowing when the next major earthquake will hit Puerto Rico, but many think that another disaster is impending. Puerto Rico continues to be impacted by smaller aftershock earthquakes as it tries to ensure the safety of all of its residents. The priority of the small country is to return power to a majority of the island and get back to life as usual.