Magnitude 6.4 Earthquake Shocks Puerto Rico



A view of a damaged church after the earthquake in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, January 9, 2020. REUTERS/Marco Bello

Nelymar Zayaz, Staff Writer

In the past weeks, a long series of earthquakes and aftershocks have rocked the island of Puerto Rico, a United States territory with a small population and a home to the families of many East Ridge High School students. These earthquakes have ranged from as small as Magnitude 2.0 to as damaging as Magnitude 6.4. With the constant shaking of the ground, many Puerto Ricans are losing their homes and fearing for the safety and future of their children and nation alike.
On Tuesday, December 7th, the island was shaken by its strongest earthquake in over a century, a magnitude 6.4 quake that knocked down countless homes and managed to bring down a near 200-year-old Catholic Church in the town of Guayanilla that had so far withstood earthquakes, including Puerto Rico’s great earthquake of 1918, measuring at a magnitude 7.1 on the Richter scale. Nobody knew how much the church meant to everyone until it was gone, resulting in broken hearts all over the town.  “Seeing it so closely was impressive but I was more impressed by the pain of the people because of what the structure meant” said Pastor Melvin Diaz Aponte of the fallen church.
According to the U.S Geological Survey (USGS), the possibility of another earthquake of equal magnitude to Tuesday’s 6.4 is not likely to happen, but small magnitude aftershocks are sure to continue hitting the island. They have also stated that Puerto Rico expects anywhere between 40 and 210 smaller earthquakes before they cease completely, which can put Puerto Rico at up to another month of continuous earthquakes.
Engineers have declared many schools in the southern part of the island unsafe for student attendance, setting back the start of school in many schools from January 13th indefinitely. Schools are still being inspected, and classes will not resume until a student’s school has passed inspection. Sadly, the school of José Rodríguez Soto of Guanica collapsed on the morning of the magnitude 6.4 earthquake. The future of students of southern Puerto Rico is not in a secure place and many parents who did not move to the states for the Hurricane Maria damage are doing so for the damage of these earthquakes. Although inspections are still in progress for school, students cannot be expected to return to class until the earthquakes have ceased completely, for it is unknown when another earthquake powerful enough to take down buildings is to strike the island once again.
“It’s worse than Maria” said nurse Darlene Morales of Guayanilla in between tears. Her neighborhood in Los Indios, La Concepcion, has been camping on the streets outside of their houses, like so many neighborhoods in the affected areas are doing. They do not know when an earthquake will take their house down and their family with it, such as it did with 79-year-old Ponce man who was crushed by the wall of his home and is so far the only reported death of the quakes.