‘Everything is shaking us,’ Puerto Ricans in Florida reflect on powerful earthquake

6.4-magnitude quake rattled island Tuesday morning

Cleanup and recovery efforts are underway after two earthquakes in Puerto Rico.

ORLANDO, Fla. – After flying into Orlando Tuesday, travelers who were in Puerto Rico Tuesday described what it was like to wake up to their world-shaking because of a 6.4-magnitude earthquake that rattled the island earlier that morning.

One of those survivors was Samalis Santini, who was home for the holidays with family. She said for the last several days they felt tremors, but nothing like what they experienced Tuesday.

“The power goes off and all of a sudden I hear as if there is a subway underground,” Santini said after arriving at Orlando’s International airport. “The house starts to shake and I see my fan on the roof going crazy and then it just kept going. I thought maybe it was a short shake but it kept going.”

Leaving Puerto to fly to Orlando for a conference, she said she felt a mix of emotions.

"I was actually quite emotional, I felt sad. I mean not that I want to be there, but I felt like I was leaving my family going through crazy stuff," she said.

The earthquake only adds to the struggles the island is already trying to overcome.

"They are barely getting over Maria, still many places have tarps on their roofs so this happening definitely broke my heart," Santini said.

Outside of baggage claim, Nicole Melendez was putting her suitcase in her family's van. She also woke up to the quake Tuesday morning.

"The worst part was the sound that it made," Melendez said. "It was like shaking and shaking it kept on shaking."

However, Melendez is confident the island will overcome this.

“We are okay,” she said. “Everything is shaking us, but we are good.”

Around Central Florida Tuesday, people with friends and relatives in Puerto Rico said they were concerned for people living on the island following a powerful pre-dawn earthquake.

Julio Santiago was at the Melao Bakery in South Orlando on Tuesday where much of the conversation at the business surrounded the dozens of earthquakes and tremors that have struck the island since late December.

"That's the scary part," Santiago said. "Not knowing, in any situation, is scary, because you always want to know what's going on."

Santiago said his family was jolted out of bed when the 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck at 4:24 a.m.

"You get a call from family over there and it's crazy," Santiago said. "Nothing you can do about it, but just try to be safe."

Jose Vales said his wife's family suffered damage to their home when the shaking began.

"It's not good over there, they don't have light," Vales said. "They want to communicate with us, but they don't have phones. It's bad over there."

Angel Acevero, whose family lives in central Puerto Rico, said many he spoke with are worried a more powerful earthquake could strike.

“We were just taken aback because although we live in a fault line, we never have experienced something like that,” Acevero said. “Everybody will think something is looming. Something is about to happen.”

As repairs are beginning for many on the island that's less than three years removed from the devastation from Hurricane Maria, those in the Central Florida Puerto Rico community said they're ready to provide support to anyone in need.

"We want to help, " Vales said. “They need to pray a lot over there for Puerto Rico.”

About the Authors:

Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.