NASA reveals Puerto Rico earthquake damage in satellite images

More than 2,000 earthquakes have rocked Puerto Rico since the middle of December, including a huge magnitude-6.6 tremor on January 7. That earthquake killed at least one person and caused at least $110million (£85million) in damages to the US territory.

The damage is still being analysed by experts, but NASA satellite images reveal the sheer destruction the earthquakes and its aftershocks brought with it.

According to NASA satellite images, there were 120 landslides in the wake of the earthquakes, which resulted in displacement of the surface of Puerto Rico.

Experts will then be able to use the information to coordinate a better disaster response plan.

NASA said: “Scientists have conducted preliminary mapping of landslides inferred to have occurred during the period of strong ground shaking related to the Jan. 7 earthquake.

“One hundred twenty landslides were mapped. They are widely dispersed across the affected area, with the highest concentration in the southwestern portion of the island nearest the epicentre.

“The landslide team is coordinating directly with the USGS Landslide Hazard program to provide relevant information for site analyses and assessments.”

Data from the ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-1A satellite found that the ground shifted downwards and to the west by around 5.5 inches.

NASA said on its website: “The scientists found that the greatest displacement from the [satellite’s] flyover area occurred west of the city of Ponce (identified by the green star), not far from the quake’s offshore epicentre.

“They recorded up to 5.5 inches (14 centimetres) of ground change there. The ground appeared to shift downward and slightly to the west.”

Puerto Rico, a popular tourist destination, lies between the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates leaving it vulnerable to earthquakes.

The USGS said: “When there are more earthquakes, the chance of a large earthquake is greater which means that the chance of damage is greater.”

Just a day prior to the magnitude-6.6 tremor, the island was struck by a mag-5.8 earthquake followed by several aftershocks.

That earthquake caused damage to buildings, landslides and power cuts and destroying the popular tourist rock formation Punta Ventana when it hit.

Punta Ventana – a stone arch near the southern town of Guayanilla – was toppled by the force of the earthquake.

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The rock formation, which collapsed into the Caribbean, was an iconic feature of Puerto Rico and was shaped like a round stone window and provided a beautiful vista of the ocean in Guayanilla.

Previously, visitors would take photos throughout the hole and even walk out along the top of the rock formation.

“Playa Ventana has collapsed.

“Today our icon rests in everyone’s memory,” Glidden López, a press officer for Guayanilla council, wrote in a Facebook post.

A local told the Miami Herald that Punta Ventana was “one of the biggest tourism draws of Guayanilla”.

The US territory had suffered major power cuts as a result of the series of tremors, but officials have stated power has been restored to the majority of the island.

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