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A school structure in Guánica collapsed after the earthquake on Tuesday morning.
A school structure in Guánica collapsed after the earthquake on Tuesday morning. (Ramón “Tonito” Zayas)

A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico early Tuesday, triggering a major blackout, killing at least one person and leaving other several injured, particularly in the southern part of the Caribbean island, according to official reports.

The earthquake hit the southern part of the island, just after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake was reported on the same area on Monday morning, causing multiple damages to households, government and commercial buildings in the municipalities of Guayanilla, Guánica, Ponce and Yauco.

Puerto Rico Insurance Commissioner, Javier Rivera Ríos, said it was too early to provide an assessment in terms of damages. He warned, however, that most of Puerto Rican households do not have insurance against catastrophic events.

Damages to public infrastructure and households due to the Three Kings Day and Tuesday’s earthquakes pose another challenge to the island, which is still healing the wound that hurricane Maria left over millions of houses, trying to exit a bankruptcy process while dealing with a 14-year economic downturn and a rapid-shrinking population.

On Monday, when the first major earthquake was felt throughout the entire island, fear and anxiety were the norm among Puerto Ricans, who otherwise would have been celebrating the Three Kings Day festivities.

Puerto Ricans, who are accustomed to deal with hurricanes, have been on alert since Christmas Eve when a series of tremors became evident for most residents. Tremors have continued since then while gaining in intensity until the ones that rocked the island yesterday and today.

Today, Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced declared a state of emergency and asked for the deployment of National Guards to assist with first response efforts.

Vázquez Garced also postponed classes in the public education system, initially scheduled to begin on Wednesday, and asked public employees to remain at their homes, except First Responders.

Tuesday’s earthquake hit about 5.3 kilometers south southwest of Tallaboa, a community or “barrio” located in the towns of Peñuelas and Guayanilla at about 4:34 a.m. The earthquake was felt throughout the island, including the commonwealth’s capital, San Juan. Right after the earthquake, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) system collapsed and the island has remained without power since early morning.

Major banks, credit unions and universities have also shut down operations on Tuesday as a preventive measure.

Monday and Tuesday’s major earthquakes and their aftermaths occurred just two years after category five hurricane Maria embattled Puerto Rico on September 20,2017, causing nearly $45 billion in damages and nearly 3,000 deaths. Last year, hurricane-related reconstruction efforts basically came to a halt due multiple restrictions on the disbursement of funds from the federal government. According to data from the Insurance Commissioner Office, about 60% of those losses were uninsured.