Special Report

Shutdown: The Coronavirus

Puerto Rico rocked by 5.4 magnitude earthquake

Earthquake damage in Puerto. Photo by A 5.5-magnitude earthquake hit near southern Puerto Rico on Saturday.Mayita Melendez via Twitter and NBC News

A 5.4-magnitude earthquake struck near the southern coast of Puerto Rico this morning, knocking out power and causing structural damages in an area hit by a string of quakes earlier this year. 

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake hit at 7:13 a.m. local time at a depth of nine kilometers near the coast of Pueñuelas and Ponce, a region still recovering from previous quakes that destroyed hundreds of homes. 

Ponce Mayor María “Mayita” Meléndez said that the city’s center suffered structural damages and that authorities are surveying the area with historic buildings to assess the situation. 

“We will keep doing rounds all across the city to assess the structural damage in order to save lives in danger. We are going to keep everyone posted with updates on the current situation,” Meléndez tweeted. “Please, avoid going to the city center until we make sure everyone is safe.”

Meanwhile, Guánica Mayor Santos “Papichy” Seda said no major damage has been confirmed, but noted that this has been the strongest earthquake to hit the region since February, according to local media reports. 

The quake was felt in Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, and several aftershocks rocked the island’s southern region, including a 4.9-magnitude one. 

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said the tremor knocked its EcoElectrica power plant off-line, but the Guayabal and Guajataca dams seemed undamaged. 

The earthquake comes as Puerto Rico remains under a nearly two-month coronavirus lockdown. The island today reported its highest number of Covid-19 cases in 24 hours, with 182 new infections. So far, Puerto Rico’s Department of Health has confirmed 1,757 coronavirus cases and 95 deaths. 

Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced reminded citizens to take coronavirus-related precautions if they need to evacuate their homes due to the earthquake and aftershocks. 

“If your structure is compromised, you should leave with your face mask on and emergency backpack,” Vázquez Garced tweeted. “Pay attention to any official information.”

Vázquez Garced said rescue crews were deployed to affected areas and asked mayors to prepare reports on damages and to make sure their citizens are safe. 

“We continue communication with each mayor in the area to assist them. #PuertoRicoPrimero (Puerto Rico First in Spanish),” she tweeted. 

The U.S. territory has been hit by a series of earthquakes since late 2019. In January, a 6.4-magnitude quake rattled the southern region of Puerto Rico, demolishing hundreds of buildings and killing one person. The quake forced thousands of people to live in shelters and government-provided camps. Some still sleep outside as the area has not stopped shaking since.

Tweet with photos from Ponce Mayor

Tweet of damages in iconic Ponce museum

Tweet of damages in a church

Other Stories in Special Report: Shutdown: The Coronavirus

No Actors, But the Show Goes On

James Pothen December 5, 2020

New York City, a place of refuge 

Edith Rousselot December 4, 2020

Commuting in a pandemic world

Michelle Diaz December 3, 2020

Battling food insecurities during a pandemic

Courtney Guarino December 3, 2020


Justin McGown December 3, 2020

Honk!: Cars earn a special spot in 2020

Luana Harumi December 3, 2020

Working out looks very different during a pandemic

Chuyan Jiang December 2, 2020

One kitchen’s transformation in the age of isolation

Isabel Beer December 2, 2020

Nursing homes are filled with sadness and loss during pandemic shut down

Inga Parkel December 1, 2020

The show goes on

Norah Hogan December 1, 2020

Loyal members help keep independent cinemas afloat

Courtney Guarino December 1, 2020

Musicians deal with the reality of no live shows as covid takes center stage

Paola Michelle Ortiz December 1, 2020

 Black Friday’s Aftermath

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi November 30, 2020

The Spirit of Little Haiti

Savannah Daniels October 14, 2020

Small business owners hope for future relief

Courtney Guarino October 2, 2020

Brooklyn Book Festival held virtually

Chuyan Jiang September 28, 2020

NYC Restaurant owners worry about maintaining business during winter 

Isabel Beer September 27, 2020

The pandemic is causing mental health struggles for many Latinos

Paola Michelle Ortiz September 24, 2020

Politically divided family can agree on one thing, rallies are bad during a pandemic

Michelle Diaz September 23, 2020

New Yorkers are vulnerable to mental issues due to pandemic

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 23, 2020

Healthcare professionals struggle with Trump’s decisions during pandemic

Tori Luecking September 23, 2020

Some Americans Say “Not So Fast” on Operation Warp Speed

James Pothen September 23, 2020

Trump voters unfazed by morality of Trump’s Covid response

Norah Hogan September 22, 2020

Trump rallies continue, despite the rising Covid-19 death toll

Isabel Beer September 22, 2020

Latinos weigh in on President Trump’s management of the pandemic

Paola Michelle Ortiz September 21, 2020

Fast track vaccine causes fear

Kaity Assaf September 21, 2020

It’s business as usual at McSorley’s Old Ale House

Tori Luecking September 20, 2020

Trump defiance to hold indoor rallies amidst COVID-19 sparks polarized responses 

Courtney Guarino September 20, 2020

NYC Cafes and restaurants try and survive the pandemic

Isabel Beer September 19, 2020

A typical afternoon at Shade Bar NYC

Kaity Assaf September 19, 2020

West Village staple, Caffe Reggio, remains open for outdoor dining in the wake of coronavirus restrictions 

Norah Hogan September 19, 2020

Fort Greene’s Dino adds outdoor dining to keep business flowing

Courtney Guarino September 19, 2020

COVID-19 hampers Fashion Week for photographers

Daniel Karel September 18, 2020

On the heels of revelation that Trump downplayed the covid threat, voters question rallies resuming

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 16, 2020

Overburdened mothers in Pakistan are relieved as schools reopens

Quratulain Tejani September 13, 2020

Students from different parts of the world struggle as schools reopen during a pandemic

Chuyan Jiang September 12, 2020

Special needs students face learning obstacles during Covid-19

Courtney Guarino September 12, 2020

Back to school – COVID-19 style 

Isabel Beer September 12, 2020

The new normal for school life is abnormal in Michigan

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 11, 2020

California School District Parents and Teachers Clash About Return to School

Norah Hogan September 10, 2020

A tribute to the mask pioneers

Bohao Liu July 11, 2020

Air pollution in China rebounds to pre-COVID level

Hannah Zhang July 11, 2020

ICE takes aim at international students

Maria Abreu July 10, 2020

Chinese students trapped by new ICE policy

Zishu Sherry Qin July 10, 2020

New ICE policy adds more turmoil to the lives of international students

Shiyu Xu July 10, 2020

Lawsuits follow ICE policy barring international students who are taking online classes

Joanna Lin Su July 10, 2020

Economists say the US needs a bold, generous fiscal response. Congress is likely to disappoint. 

Ahmed Mohamed July 9, 2020

Overseas Singaporeans have pandemic obstacles to voting

Yifan Yu July 9, 2020

Proximity sensors and hygiene stations are the “new normal”

Joanna Lin Su July 9, 2020

 Tour ticket vendors miss the hustle and bustle of Times Square

Narkwor Kwabla July 8, 2020