A strong earthquake hit Puerto Rico after midnight on Sunday, the quake was centered in the Atlantic Ocean.
The epicenter was approximately 35 miles north of Hatillo, and 17 miles deep according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The National Weather Service’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has reported that there is a possibility of a widespread tsunami, but it is not expected to be destructive.
Some damage was reported as several people experienced items falling in their home and many others said they felt the buildings sway in San Juan, which lies approximately 61 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter.
The area is no stranger to earthquakes – many of similar magnitude have hit the country in the recent past. A 5.4 magnitude occurred in March 2011 and December 2010.
Reports indicate that there was minimal damage. The capital San Juan, where 400,000 people live, is located on the same side of the island where the possibility of a tsunami could occur, although authorities have not issued a warning.
This quake is almost 4 years to the day after the powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake ravaged Haiti. It also occurred just a day after services were held in Haiti to remember the estimated 316,000 people killed in that quake of January 12, 2010.
The Caribbean tectonic plate is a sliver of crust caught between the North and South American plates and, to the west, the Cocos plate. When they move in opposite directions the Caribbean plate gets squeezed, thereby causing tremors and earthquakes.
Although in recent years Puerto Rico has not fallen victim to a major tremor, the U.S. Geological Society notes that the subduction zone “is capable of hosting M8+ earthquakes.” That said, the tectonic history of the region includes known earthquakes of magnitude-7.5 in 1914, magnitude-7.3 in 1787 and 1918 and magnitude-7.0 1917.
These quakes were recorded to have caused major damage, and the 1918 quake, which created a tsunami, killed 116 people.
Image via NDN