After a week of seismic activity in Puerto Rico, the strongest of the tremors hit the island on Tuesday (January 7), leading Governor Wanda Vázquez to declare a state of emergency and activate the National Guard, El Nuevo Dia newspaper reported.
Since the 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck the island’s southern coast near Ponce early Tuesday morning, there have been at least 20 aftershocks and the entire island is facing power outages and structural damage to roads and bridges, according to NBC News. At least one person was killed and eight others were injured, the Associated Press reported. This disaster comes the day after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake hit the island on Monday, damaging homes on the southern coast, according to Reuters.
“We are prepared to support anything,” Paul Dahlen, the Puerto Rico National Guard's public affairs officer said in a statement according to El Nuevo Dia. “We have helicopters and helicopter crews that are ready to fly, to evacuate people if necessary. We have cargo vehicles that we have used in [hurricane] Maria, to get people out of their homes if necessary and reach that end.”
Government officials are urging residents to stay home and have closed offices, schools, and some hospitals in the southwestern region that has been hit hardest by the quakes. Governor Vázquez tweeted that first responders were already reporting to the affected areas to offer help.
"Citizen security is a priority, so vulnerable areas are being inspected and all necessary measures will be taken to ensure the safety of all Puerto Ricans,” Vázquez said Tuesday morning in a statement, according to NBC News.
This natural disaster comes as the United States territory recovers from the devastating 2017 hurricanes that killed approximately 3,000 people and destroyed the infrastructure of an island already facing bankruptcy. Critics called President Donald Trump's response to the natural disaster a sign of his "vendetta against Puerto Rico." He resisted sending enough emergency funding to the island, refused to acknowledge the death toll, and complained that the territory was not appreciative of the scant support the government offered its citizens. As of publish time, he has not commented on the earthquake.