For nine months, there have been earthquakes across the island. Two days ago, seismic activity increased in the northeast region, diagonally opposite from the area severely damaged early this year.
SAN JUAN—Several areas of Puerto Rico continue to be affected by tremors because of three active seismic sequences.
Víctor Huérfano, interim director of the Puerto Rico Seismic Network, explained the island currently has active seismic sequences in the southeast, north, and northeast.
“The activity will continue because the northeast region experiences seismic events every day. Being out at sea, the tremors are not necessarily felt on land,” Huérfano told The Americano.
The southwest region has been dealing with an active seismic sequence for over nine months since Dec. 28, when a 4.8 magnitude earthquake hit. A 6.4 magnitude earthquake happened on Jan. 6, causing severe damage in Guánica and other municipalities of the area.
“The activity increased as never before in that area. Over time, the reaction of the population has gone from panic to concern,” Huérfano said.
For months, residents of southwestern Puerto Rico slept outside of their homes, out of fear that another earthquake could destroy the structures.
Last week, on Wednesday, the Puerto Rico Seismic Network reported a 5.3 magnitude earthquake in the northeastern region of the island. Huérfano, who is a geophysicist and professor, explained that the tremor is part of a seismic sequence that began in the vicinity in September 2019 and is still active.
“Since last week, we have been seeing high seismic activity in the vicinity of the Virgin Islands, specifically Santa Cruz,” Huérfano said. “That event triggered a series of related events. Friday morning we had another major event of 3.6 magnitude, which was felt slightly in Puerto Rico but way more in the Virgin Islands.”
The expert said the pandemic has delayed the rebuilding of municipalities affected by the strong quakes in January.
“The demolition process has only just begun,” Huérfano said. “We hope that the affected families will soon regain their usual lifestyle—which was greatly affected.”
Because of this activity, more people are aware of and prepared to face these emergencies, Huérfano said. He also emphasized the importance of knowing history to better understand the current situation. In 1918, Puerto Rico had to deal with a massive 7.3 magnitude quake and a pandemic.
“That generation had to face the earthquake and the 1918 influenza pandemic, which severely affected the United States and Puerto Rico,” Huérfano said. “History repeats itself at certain points.”
The expert hopes more earthquake-resistant structures are built going forward.