Many Puerto Ricans slept outside and woke up to an island still largely without power Wednesday after a string of earthquakes rocked their home in recent days.
The worst quake — a magnitude 6.4 that struck early Tuesday – killed at least one person, injured at least nine others and caused the power outage that has left a majority of the U.S. territory without electricity.
Hundreds of buildings have also been damaged or are close to crumbling, forcing people to pull their beds into the streets in fear that an aftershock could flatten their homes.
“There’s no power. There’s no water. There is nothing. This is horrible,” 80-year-old Lupita Martínez told the Associated Press as she sat in a parking lot with her husband.
According to the U.S. Geologic Survey, there have been more than 950 earthquakes and aftershocks recorded in the area as of Tuesday night since Dec. 31, though many were weak and could not be felt.
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said Tuesday aid had been made available to help the recovery efforts after President Donald Trump signed an emergency declaration.
“All of Puerto Rico has seen the devastation of this earthquake,” Gov. Wanda Vázquez told Reuters. Vázquez took office in August in the wake of massive protests and scandal that led Ricardo Rosselló to step down.
Vázquez also declared an emergency and mobilized the national guard as roughly 750 people were in government shelters, many in the southwest of the island.
Guánica, among the worst hit towns in the southwest, had to move about 200 people outside a shelter after quakes threatened the structure. They had been staying there because previous earthquakes damaged their homes.
“We are confronting a crisis worse than Hurricane Maria,” said Guánica Mayor Santos Seda about the town of 1,500 people.
Nearly 700 homes are close to collapsing and about 150 have already been affected, he said.
“I am asking for empathy from the federal government,” he added.
The powerful earthquake Tuesday was the strongest the island has seen in more than a century and comes as many areas are still recovering from the devastation of the deadly Hurricane Maria in 2017, which killed thousands.
Many were critical of the federal government’s response to Hurricane Maria, saying more could have been done to aid the recovery efforts.
Schools were still closed Wednesday and most government employees were told to stay home from work. According to Reuters, power should return to much of the island within the next day or two, barring no other large aftershocks or quakes.
The quakes have also destroyed a popular tourist landmark, Punta Ventana, a coastal rock formation that had formed a sort of rounded window. The Puerto Rico Tourism Company confirmed that two other sites, Cueva Ventana and Ruinas del Faro, also suffered irreparable damage.
Contributing: The Associated Press.