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Magnitude 6.5 earthquake hits off Puerto Rico: USGS

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Washington (AFP)

A strong earthquake struck south of Puerto Rico early Tuesday, the US Geological Survey said, the latest in a series of tremors that have shaken the island since December 28.

The shallow 6.5 magnitude quake struck 13.6 kilometers (8.5 miles) south of the city of Ponce, the USGS said, revising down its initial reading of 6.6.

The quake struck just off the US territory's southern Caribbean coastline at 4:24 am local time (0824 GMT).

"The whole island is without power," the director of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, Jose Ortiz, told local media.

Puerto Rico's governor Wanda Vazquez Garced posted on Twitter that the government's security protocols had been activated.

She said government employees were not expected at work, adding: "We want everyone to be safe."

On social media, people wrote of being shaken awake by the force of the quake.

One woman on Twitter said she had been "wrenched from sleep", adding "Everybody is awake & scared all over."

Dramatic images also shared on social media appeared to show widespread damage in the town of Guayanilla, home to around 20,000 people, as well as nearby Guanica.

The mayor of Guayanilla told local news channel NotiUno that the town's church had collapsed in the incident.

An alert issued by the Tsunami Warning Center immediately following the earthquake was later cancelled.

Tuesday's quake was the strongest of a series of tremors that have shaken the island since December 28, topping Monday's 5.8 quake.

That earthquake toppled houses and caused power outages, but there were no reports of casualties.

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