PONCE, Puerto Rico (AP) — A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico before dawn on Tuesday, killing one man, injuring at least eight other people and collapsing buildings. The quake was followed by a series of strong aftershocks, part of a 10-day series of temblors spawned by the grinding of tectonic plates along three faults beneath southern Puerto Rico. Seismologists say it’s impossible to predict when the quakes will stop or whether they will get stronger.

The 6.4-magnitude quake cut power to the island as power plants shut down to protect themselves. Authorities said two plants suffered light damage and they expected power to be restored later Tuesday. Puerto Rico’s main airport was operating normally, using generator power.

“I’ve never been so scared in my life,” said Nelson Rivera, a 70-year-old resident who fled his home in the city of Ponce, near the epicenter of the quake. “ I didn’t think we would get out. I said: ‘We’ll be buried here.’”

Teacher Rey González told The Associated Press that his uncle was killed when a wall collapsed on him at the home they shared in Ponce. He said 73-year-old Nelson Martínez was disabled and that he and his father cared for him.

Eight people were injured in Ponce, Mayor Mayita Meléndez told WAPA television. Hundreds of people sat in the streets of the city, some cooking food on barbeque grills, afraid to return home for fear of structural damage and aftershocks.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit at 4:24 a.m. just south of the island at a shallow depth of six miles (10 kilometers). It initially gave the magnitude as 6.6 but later adjusted it. At 7:18 a.m., a magnitude-6.0 aftershock hit the same area. People reported strong shaking and staff at a local radio station said live on air that they were leaving their building

A tsunami alert was issued for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after the initial quake, but was later canceled. In the historic district of Ponce, authorities evacuated more than 150 people from two buildings they said are in danger of collapsing. Among them were more than two dozen elderly patients from a nursing home who sat in their wheelchairs in silence as the earth continued to tremble.

Amir Señeriz leaned against the cracked wall of his Freemason Lodge in Ponce and wailed. The roof of the 1915 building was partially collapsed and dust and debris lay around him. Outside, he had already carefully placed 10 large historic paintings. The earth continued trembling as he went back into the building to recover more artifacts.

Helping him was artist Nelson Figueroa, 44, who said he slept in his street clothes. “It was chaos,” he said, adding that there was a traffic jam in his coastal neighborhood as terrified people fled. Albert Rodríguez, who is from the southwest town of Guánica, said the tsunami sirens went off before officials canceled the alert. He said there is widespread damage in his neighborhood.

“The road is cracked in the middle and it lifted up,” he said. The mayor in the southwest town of Guayanilla, Nelson Torres, told NotiUno radio station that the church in the public plaza of his town collapsed.

Puerto Rico’s governor, Wanda Vasquez, ordered government offices closed for the day and urged citizens to remain calm and not check damage to their homes until daylight. A 5.8-magnitude quake that struck early Monday morning collapsed five homes in Guánica and heavily damaged dozens of others. It also caused small landslides and power outages. The quake was followed by a string of smaller temblors.

The shake collapsed a coastal rock formation that had formed a sort of rounded window, Punta Ventana, that was a popular tourist draw in Guayanilla. Residents in the south of the island have been terrified to go into their homes for fear that another quake will bring buildings down.

The flurry of quakes in Puerto Rico’s southern region began the night of Dec. 28. Seismologists say that shallow quakes were occurring along three faults in Puerto Rico’s southwest region: Lajas Valley, Montalva Point and the Guayanilla Canyon, as the North American plate and the Caribbean plate squeeze Puerto Rico.

One of the largest and most damaging earthquakes to hit Puerto Rico occurred in October 1918, when a magnitude 7.3 quake struck near the island’s northwest coast, unleashing a tsunami and killing 116 people.

6.4 quake strikes Puerto Rico amid heavy seismic activity

PONCE, Puerto Rico (AP) — A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico before dawn on Tuesday, killing one man, injuring at … Read more

BEIRUT (AP) — When Syrian President Bashar Assad made a rare visit to Tehran last year, the powerful Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Soleimani was there to greet him, along with Iran’s supreme leader and president. Iran’s foreign minister wasn’t, and he resigned in protest at being excluded from talks with a crucial ally.

It was a telling episode on who controls Iran’s policy in Syria. Iran’s frontman in Syria since 2011, Soleimani helped turn the tide in the now nearly 9-year-old civil war, intervening to save Assad as armed rebels neared the capital, Damascus, and seized key cities. He welded together Shiite militias from across the region to back Syria’s military and waged sieges that captured back territory, wreaked destruction and prevented the collapse of Assad’s state.

His killing in an U.S. airstrike in Iraq is likely to rattle thousands of Iranian-backed fighters in Syria. The networks of militias he set up will remain in place, and Syria is likely to become a scene for confrontation with hundreds of U.S. troops stationed there.

The Iranian-backed militias are scattered all over Syria, including near civilians and some near American positions, said Danny Makki, a Syrian analyst based in Britain. If the U.S.-Iranian conflict escalates — “as is very likely,” he said — the U.S. or Israel could strike the militias, or the Iranian-backed fighters could attack American positions, which are in the eastern part of Syria, including near Kurdish-controlled oil fields that Damascus is eager to regain.

“The battleground will be Syria and Iraq,” Makki said. “It could go bad on multiple levels.” Soleiman’s killing could also have a resounding knock-on effect in Syria. If Baghdad forces U.S. troops to leave Iraq in protest, American soldiers in Syria would lose a vital logistics and supply line and would likely have to pull out as well. That would leave the Americans’ ally, the Syrian Kurds, vulnerable. Iraq’s Parliament on Sunday demanded U.S. troops leave, but it is not immediately clear if the government will carry out the threat.

Soleimani, known simply as the General, transformed Iran’s traditional role of supporting proxies focused on challenging Western influence to forging paramilitary forces that could prop up a ruler and a traditional army.

He led Iran’s intervention in Syria when it became clear to Tehran, early on in the war, that its only state ally in the region was on the verge of collapse. That would have endangered a vital hub for Tehran: Assad’s state provided access to Iran’s most important and professional militia ally, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, gave depth and protection to its influence in Iraq and put Iranian influence on the border with Israel.

Soleimani, at the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, brought in and organized thousands of Shiite militiamen from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran to back Assad’s overstretched military, providing firepower and skills. He reorganized Syria’s own various paramilitary groups into one force, injecting disciplined fighters into the otherwise drained troops.

It was also Soleimani who negotiated joint military operations with Russia in 2015, two months before Russia began its airstrikes in Syria. In April 2016, Russia carried out airstrikes inside Syria from Iran, the first time a foreign state operated inside Iran since World War II, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Soleimani set battlefield priorities, wresting strategic areas from opposition control one by one. An early objective was Qusayr, a town near the Lebanese border key to supply lines with Hezbollah, then central cities and suburbs around Damascus and a top prize, Syria’s largest city, Aleppo. When Aleppo was fully recaptured in 2016, it was Soleimani, not Assad, who visited the city.

At home in Iran, he may have been seen as a war hero fighting extremists, but his opponents say he introduced some of the most brutal tactics of the Syrian war, particularly the use of long, devastating sieges of populated areas that strangled civilians and clawed back territory until resistance collapsed. The tactic killed or displaced hundreds of thousands and left urban areas in ruins. Moreover, pitting Shiite militias against the largely Sunni opposition deepened the war’s sectarian nature and fueled atrocities.

“He was the godfather of demographic change in Syria … His hallmarks are on every massacre that happened in an area cleared of its people, starting from Homs, Ghouta, Daraa and Aleppo,” said Tarek Muharram, an opposition fighter from Aleppo who fought against Iranian-backed militias.

“Those tactics won’t change much after he dies,” said Abdul-Salam Abdul-Razek, a defecting Syrian army officer who also fought against Soleimani’s militias. Displaced Syrians celebrated Soleimani’s killing, distributing sweets or shouting thanks to U.S. President Donald Trump. In one of the last opposition-held cities in northern Syria, men danced and sang in a public square.

“We woke up to the best news,” said Jamil Andani, a displaced man in Idlib. Soleimani “made us suffer. He was our worst enemy.” For Assad and his forces, Soleimani was a savior. Eulogizing Soleimani, Assad said he left “clear marks in his victories against terrorist groups” in Syria.

The question now is how much impact Soleimani’s death will have on the forces he led. Besides his skill as a strategist and tactician, Soleimani was a powerful presence in the field, often showing up in operations rooms to direct fighting or at front lines to boost morale.

“The Syrian-Iranian alliance will continue that’s for sure,” Makki said. “But the loss of Soleimani, the mastermind of so many victories, plans and strategies will be a big blow for Syria and Iran on a policy level and in terms of regional clout.”

Assad said the tactics used by the general will only grow and be entrenched in the men he trained. Reflecting concerns over the effect of Soleimani’s killing, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said advances made in Syria should not stall, urging fighters to be steadfast and all Iran proxies to fight the U.S. presence in the region.

“No one should be shaken or worry or be afraid,” Nasrallah said Sunday. “We should continue the path firmly toward victory.”

Iranian general transformed Syria’s war in Assad’s favor

BEIRUT (AP) — When Syrian President Bashar Assad made a rare visit to Tehran last year, the powerful Revolutionary Guard … Read more

At least, four people were injured after an improvised bomb exploded on Saturday morning in southern Philippine province of Sultan Kudarat, local Police said.

Police said the improvised explosive device (IED) went off at around 7.00 a.m. local time in front of a market along a highway in Isulan, the provincial capital of Sultan Kudarat.

“The suspected IED was placed at a terminal for motorcycles in front of the public market,’’ Isulan Police Director, Junie Buenacosa, said.

No other details were made available to the media as government security forces rushed to the scene to investigate.

No group has claimed responsibility for the explosion.

Last year, two successive bombings rocked Isulan that claimed the lives of five people and injured 45 others.

In April this year, another home-made bomb went off in front of a chicken barbecue stall, also in the same stretch of the national highway.

Four injured in Philippine explosion

At least, four people were injured after an improvised bomb exploded on Saturday morning in southern Philippine province of Sultan … Read more

Pakistan says it has refused a request by India’s President Ram Nath Kovind to fly through its airspace due to New Delhi’s recent “behaviour”.

The decision on Saturday comes amid heightened tensions between the two neighbours over the disputed region of Kashmir.

“The Indian president had sought permission to use Pakistan’s airspace to travel to Iceland but we decided not to permit him,” Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a statement, without giving further details.

“The decision has been taken in view of India’s behaviour.”

Such permissions are usually granted. There was no immediate comment by India.

Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in full, but administer separate portions of it. The nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours have fought two of their three wars over the region, and their forces regularly exchange fire across a 740km Line of Control, which is the de facto border.

On August 5, India’s Hindu nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked a special constitutional status accorded to Indian-administered Kashmir, imposing a communications blackout and deploying thousands of troops to the Muslim-majority state, where a rebellion has been ongoing for 30 years.

Amid a strict lockdown, hundreds of activists and political leaders, including three former chief ministers, have been detained by Indian authorities in recent weeks.

Pakistan closed its airspace to Indian traffic after aerial dogfights in February raised tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi.

It reopened its skies for all civilian traffic in July, ending months of restrictions affecting major international routes.

Pakistan denies Indian president’s request to use airspace

Pakistan says it has refused a request by India’s President Ram Nath Kovind to fly through its airspace due to … Read more