By Jim Wyss
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — One of Puerto Rico's iconic natural wonders — a soaring stone arch along the southern coast known as Punta Ventana or Window Point — collapsed early Monday as a 5.79 magnitude earthquake rattled the island.
Denniza Colon, a 22-year-old resident of Guayanilla, said she went by the area Monday and was shocked to find the arch, a place that she visited frequently as a child, had simply vanished.
"This is really sad," she said in a telephone interview. "It was one of the biggest tourism draws of Guayanilla."
Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory of 3.2 million, has been jolted by a series of earthquakes that began Dec. 28 and have been concentrated along the southern part of the island.
Monday's tremor struck about 6:32 a.m. local time, knocking several homes off their foundations and causing rockslides along some roads. Puerto Rico's Energy Authority said two substations, in Guanica and Yauco, had been affected and power was out in some areas of the island. However, there were no immediate reports of casualties.
"This is one of the strongest quakes to date since it started shaking on Dec. 28," Angel Vazquez, the emergency management director for the southern coastal city of Ponce, told The Associated Press. "It lasted a long time."
A smaller quake, a 5.1 magnitude, struck at 10:51 a.m. Monday's earthquakes come as the island was celebrating Three Kings Day and government offices and most businesses were shut.
Punta Ventana is just one of several naturally occurring arches on the island — "windows" carved out by the sea beating against rocky outcrops over eons.
While Punta Ventana wasn't easy to access, the dramatic image of the almost perfectly round eye gouged into the stone frequently graced tourism brochures.
On Jan. 3, the spokesman for Guayanilla municipality, Glidden Lopez, wrote on Facebook that the arch had been damaged due to the previous tremors and that a lower portion of the eye had broken off "changing the shape of the window."
On Monday he wrote: "Playa Ventana has collapsed. Today our icon is nothing but a memory."