Seismic activity continues to shake Puerto Rico with 5.2 quake

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Friday, January 17, 2020

On Wednesday morning, a magnitude 5.2 earthquake hit the already rattled United States commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has experienced dozens of earthquakes over magnitude 4.5 since late December, including a 6.4 quake that hit on January 7 and caused an island-wide blackout.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) placed the epicenter of the quake about eight kilometers (five miles) southwest of the town of Guenica.

One resident told Paul Rivera of WESH 2 news, "We're used to it." Seismologists have buried sensors in the ground in an attempt to find the cause of the past month's unusual seismic activity.

John Geiger of USGS told the press last week, "The past several weeks we've had hundreds of small earthquakes in the same region [...] It began on Dec. 28, when we had a 4.7-magnitude [earthquake] there. Since the 4.7, we've had over 400 magnitude 2+ earthquakes."

Last week, continuing aftershocks hampered repair efforts, and roughly two thirds of the island was still without power two days after the January 7 quake. That event destroyed at least 300 homes, ripped up roads, killed one and injured eight people, and cracked the island's biggest power plant. The governor of Puerto Rico, Wanda Vázquez Garced, declared a state of emergency.

This followed a 5.8 magnitude earthquake the previous day that collapsed the famous Punta Ventana rock formation.

Punta Ventana rock formation, destroyed by a 5.8 quake on January 6. (Image: Batista825)

José Ortiz of the island's power authority said fixing the island's largest power plant, which was damaged by the quake, may take a year. The Costa Sur power plant at Guayanilla was close to the January 7 quake's epicenter. Costa Sur provided power for about a quarter of Puerto Rico's private homes and businesses. Reportedly, without Costa Sur the island's other plants would have to operate near full capacity to keep the residents in power.

Puerto Rico had still not fully recovered from 2017's Hurricane Maria, estimated to have done about $90 billion in property damage and claimed about 3000 lives.

In predictions since the January 7 quake, the U.S. Geological Survey has said the earthquakes may continue into early February.