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Magnitude 6.4 tremor causes Puerto Rico’s worst earthquake damage in decades

Puerto Rico is under a state of emergency after experiencing a magnitude 6.4 earthquake Tuesday morning. The tremor, part of a series that has shaken the U.S. territory since Christmas, caused substantial damage along the southern coast. One man died when a wall caved in on his house, and many residents were left without power or water. John Yang reports on the island's worst earthquake in years.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Puerto Rico is under a state of emergency after an early-morning earthquake. The tremor shook the U.S. territory and its three million people, with substantial damage along the southern coast.

    John Yang has our report.

  • John Yang:

    Cars crushed under collapsed garages, churches reduced to rubble, scenes of devastation after a magnitude-6.4 earthquake jolted Puerto Ricans before dawn today.

  • Silvestre Horta (through translator):

    I was sleeping when the house began falling down, bit by bit. I grabbed my bag I had prepared and ran outside and jumped off the balcony. Man, it was terrible. I don't wish that on anyone.

  • John Yang:

    A series of quakes along three fault lines has shaken Puerto Rico since Christmas. This morning's was centered just off the southern coast near Ponce, and did its heaviest damage in that region. One man in Ponce died when a wall caved in on his house.

    Large swathes of the island were left without power, and some 300,000 customers lost water service. The iconic beachside Punta Ventana rock formation collapsed into the sea.

    Governor Wanda Vazquez declared an emergency and said the earthquake damage is the worst since 1918.

  • Gov. Wanda Vazquez (through translator):

    We are talking about a situation that Puerto Rico has never been exposed to during the last 102 years. So, we are talking about something for which we could not prepare. We are talking about a situation that happens without notice.

  • John Yang:

    And with aftershocks rippling across the island throughout the day, many Puerto Ricans are unnerved.

  • Iris Tirado (through translator):

    What I want to do now is leave. I want to leave, and not stay there anymore, because I no longer live in peace. If I want to go in a room, I have to think about it twice. If I go to the kitchen, I am concerned. I don't want to go in there.

  • John Yang:

    Officials are warning of more tremors to come on an island still recovering from the devastating Hurricane Maria in 2017.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.

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