The quakes killed at least one person, provoked a protective power outage across the entire island and cut off drinking water to 300,000 customers, Vazquez told a news conference.
At least 346 people were left homeless, officials said, as homes were flattened, mostly in the south of the island. Many damaged buildings sat next to piles of rubble.
(FEMA). Several members of Congress including Florida’s two U.S. senators and Puerto Rico’s non-voting member of the House of Representatives appealed to U.S. President Donald Trump for aid.
Trump has been briefed on the earthquakes and administration officials were monitoring the impact in coordination with Puerto Rico officials, White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.
The island has been rocked by a series of quakes - literally hundreds - since Dec. 28, including 10 of magnitude 4 or greater, the U.S. Geological Survey said. A 5.8-magnitude temblor on Monday damaged some homes on the southern coast.
Powerful quakes are rare in Puerto Rico, and Tuesday’s 6.4 was the strongest in more than a century, the island’s seismology office Red Sismica said. On Oct. 11, 1918, a 7.3 magnitude quake and tsunami killed 116 people, according to Red Sismica data.
The U.S. territory is still recovering from a pair of devastating 2017 hurricanes that killed about 3,000 people and destroyed a significant amount of infrastructure. Puerto Rico is also working through a bankruptcy process to restructure about $120 billion of debt and pension obligations.
“We are a resilient people. We have responded to many difficult situations. Now this has been asked of us one more time,” said Vazquez, who later toured damaged areas.
One of Tuesday’s quakes triggered an automatic shutdown of electricity across the island as a safety measure and a later, more powerful quake damaged power plants in the southern part of the island, Vazquez said.
Power remained cut off to the capital San Juan and most of the island some 11 hours after the largest quake.