The island of Puerto Rico was hit by a powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake that triggered a widespread blackout early Tuesday (Jan. 7) morning, the Washington Post reports.
Jehudi Rivera, who lives in Santa Isabel located on the southern coast of the island, told BET he was woken up by the powerful earthquake when his bed began shaking violently.
“I thought I was going to be thrown off the bed,” he said. “I had to evacuate because of tsunami warnings.”
Because of the immediate evacuation, Rivera was forced to leave his dog behind and seek shelter in a nearby Walmart until it was safe to return to his home.
“It’s unbelievable,” he told BET. “Between this and Hurricane Maria, it’s unbelievable. I’ve never experienced anything like this.”
Rivera added that “thank God” no one he knew of was hurt, but there was some structural damage in nearby Ponce, about 20 miles away.
Ponce, the most populated city on the island outside of the San Juan metro area, is where a 77-year-old man was confirmed dead after a wall in his home fell on top of him, according to Gladyra Archilla, a spokesperson for the city, the Washington Post reports.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the shaking began about 4:24 a.m. and was followed by intense aftershocks, including a 6.0-magnitude shock wave that was also felt across the U.S. territory, the Washington Post reports.
“Everybody is in a panic right now,” Rivera told BET. “A lot of people are nervous because they don’t know what is going to happen because we’re expecting more.”
The Washington Post reports, Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced told government employees to stay home as more aftershocks are expected in the next several days. Emergency personnel are evaluating the damage and inspecting Puerto Rico’s power generation plants — all of which are located along the southern coast near the origin of the seismic activity.
“There will be other earthquakes, prepare yourselves,” the governor said, according to the Washington Post. “This will continue to happen. For how long? We can’t say.”
However, she urged residents to remain calm and to stave off panic with preparation, the Washington Post reports.
“You are not alone,” the governor said, the Washington Post reports. “The central government is here to meet your needs.”
Vázquez Garced added that her government had not yet had direct contact with the White House in Washington, the Washington Post reports.
The Costa Sur power generation plant near the quake’s epicenter was damaged, leaving millions without electricity, the Washington Post reports.
Power utility spokeswoman Edith Seda said the system is designed to shut off automatically in the event of vibrations, and the extent of the damage was unclear, the Washington Post reports.
Authorities also reported that 300,000 customers are without water service, the Washington Post reports.
“Everything is paralyzed,” said Marcos Irizarry Pagan, the mayor of Lajas, a southern municipality impacted by the quake, during a live interview on Puerto Rico’s local Telemundo station, the Washington Post reports. “I hope this isn’t like Maria.”
(Photo: RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images)