Monday 6 July, 2020

10 of the worst earthquakes in T&T

Trinidad and Tobago has been known to experience tremors and earthquakes due to its location along the southern border of the Caribbean Plate. 

On August 21, 2018, a 6.9 earthquake caused massive panic, terror and confusion as citizens reported houses shaking, items falling off supermarket shelves and cracks forming in walls and along the ground. 

The earthquake measured an earth-shaking 6.9 and was felt in both Trinidad and Tobago, as far north as Grenada and as far south as Guyana.

The epicentre of the 'quake, which was recorded in Venezuela, registered a magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter Scale.

The US Geological Survey said this was the largest historic event within 250 kilometres of this location in the 20th and 21st centuries. 

Here’s a look at some of the worst earthquakes to hit T&T:

1. 1766 – San Jose 

The catastrophic earthquake of 1766 destroyed Trinidad's original capital of San Jose, now known as St Joseph, by a 7.9 earthquake, which may have been a factor in relocating the capital to Port-of-Spain.


2. 1888 

Records show a 7.5 earthquake occurred within the Caribbean region, causing damage from Trinidad to St. Vincent.


3. 1954 - Trinidad

Another strong earthquake was reported in 1954, with a magnitude of 6.5.

A newspaper clipping titled ‘Earthquake in Trinidad’ in Australia’s Cairns Post was more concerned, however, that it spoiled the impending visit of Princess Margaret:

“Trinidad, correspondent says that the earthquake yesterday seriously damaged the room in Government House which Princess Margaret is to use on her visit early next year.”

The report added that “Heavy slabs of fallen masonry were piled high in the passage between the Princess' living room suite and the bathroom. The rooms were recently re-decorated in readiness for her arrival and will now have to be repaired.”

“Glass lampshades were shattered and hardly a room in Government House does not show cracks, caused by the tremor, which was the worst in living memory,” the report said.


4. 1968

In 1968 a 7.0 earthquake was reported to have occurred near Trinidad, causing significant damage to neighbouring Venezuela with some damage to Port of Spain.


5. 1982, Tobago

A 5.2 earthquake struck Tobago, which was the largest earthquake to occur up to that time.


6. 1996 – Trinidad, New Year’s Day

A 5.2 was recorded as occurring just north of Trinidad on New Year’s Day. Luckily, there were no reported injuries.


7. 1997 – Tobago

The 6.1 earthquake which occurred in 1997 caused major damage with an estimated US$25 million in damages occurring in Tobago, causing two persons to be injured and leaving 15 people homeless.


8. 2006 – Trinidad

The country was rocked by a 5.8 earthquake in 2006, according to a Newsday report. No lives were lost, however some damage was reported and there were some injuries reported.


9. 2007 - Martinique, felt in T&T

According to the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) a massive 7.3 earthquake occurred near Martinique but it was felt throughout the Eastern Caribbean from Puerto Rico to Guyana, including T&T, with damage reported in Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Barbados.


10. 2013 - Trinidad

A massive 6.4 earthquake reportedly occurred just 74 kilometres north-west of Port-of-Spain on October 11, 2013, the strongest to occur since the ‘quake of 1997.


Here are some helpful earthquake terms:

  • Seismic wave: Seismic waves pass through the Earth and ware most often the result of an earthquake, sometimes from an explosion. Seismic waves are also continually excited by the pounding of ocean waves and the wind.
  • Intensity: Describes the level of shaking during an earthquake.
  • Magnitude: This is a measure of the strength of an earthquake and is related to the amount of energy released.
  • Hypocentre/Focus: This is the area within the crust where rocks ruptured and released their stored energy in an earthquake.
  • Epicentre: This is the point on the earth’s surface that is directly above the hypocenter or focus. The epicenter is usually the location of greatest damage.


Here are 5 safety tips if an earthquake occurs:

  1. Before an earthquake even occurs, keep an emergency storage kit of medicine, food, drinking water and basic tools.
  2. Identify safe places to retreat to during an earthquake – this can be a sturdy desk, strong doorway or other strongly supported area.
  3. When the earthquake occurs, don’t move around as falling items may injure you. If you are near a sturdy desk or table you can go under it for cover. Tuck your head down and between your arms.
  4. Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as light fixtures or furniture.
  5. If you are in a moving vehicle, stop as quickly and safely as possible and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires. Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. 


Stay safe!

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