A 5.7-magnitude earthquake shook the entire island of Puerto Rico on Monday morning, the strongest in a flurry of quakes to strike the U.S. territory in recent days.
The relatively shallow 10 kilometer-deep quake struck just south of the island, where it was felt most strongly, according to the U.S. Geological Service. There was no tsunami threat, according to officials.
Jose Francisco Benitez, an attorney, was at a hotel in the southwest coastal town of Guanica when the quake hit. Panicked guests who tried to flee in their cars came to realize that large boulders were obstructing the only highway leading north to San Juan, he said.
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“I have never felt anything like this,” Benitez said. “It was like a giant grabbed our room and shook it.”
“There was a state of panic,” he said, adding that people flooded out of their hotel rooms in their underwear.
Authorities urged people to stay calm as residents in the south posted pictures of partially collapsed houses and rocks and boulders blocking roads.
“My entire family woke up screaming,” Dr. Sindia Alvarado, who lives in the southern coastal town of Peñuelas, told The Associated Press. “I thought the house was going to crack in half.”
Some residents lost power as the electric system was shut down as a precaution, said the head of the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency, Carlos Acevedo.
Acevedo said it’s the strongest quake since the first in a series jolted the island on Dec. 28. That 4.7 quake was followed by a 5.1-magnitude one that also hit near Puerto Rico’s south coast and another 4.2-magnitude one Dec. 31. Since Dec. 28, more than 1,1000 earthquakes have been recorded in the region, most of which have not been felt.
USGS geophysicist Amy Vaughn said the island is in a seismically active area, but a 5.7 magnitude quake is “a larger event for the region.”
Associated Press contributed.