Sunday 24 May, 2020

USGS records 7.7 earthquake near Jamaica

Photo via USGS

Photo via USGS

A powerful magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck in the Caribbean Sea between Jamaica and eastern Cuba on Tuesday. Witnesses reported strong shaking but there was no immediate word of casualties or heavy damage.

The quake was centred 139 kilometres (86 miles) northwest of Montego Bay, Jamaica, and 140 kilometres (87 miles) west-southwest of Niquero, Cuba. It hit at 2:10 p.m. (1910 GMT) and the epicentre was a relatively shallow 10 kilometres (6 miles) beneath the surface.

The quake also hit the Cayman Islands, leaving cracked roads and what appeared to be sewage spilling from cracked mains. There were no immediate reports of deaths, injuries or more severe damage, said Kevin Morales, editor-in-chief of the Cayman Compass newspaper.

The islands see so few earthquakes that newsroom staff were puzzled when it hit, he said.

"'It was just like a big dump truck was rolling past,"' Morales said. "Then it continued and got more intense."

Dr. Stenette Davis, a psychiatrist at a Cayman Islands hospital, said she had seen manhole covers blown off by the force of the quake, and sewage exploding into the street, but no more serious damage.

Claude Diedrick, 71, who owns a fencing business in Montego Bay, said he was sitting in his vehicle reading when the earth began to sway.

"It felt to me like I was on a bridge and like there were two or three heavy trucks and the bridge was rocking but there were no trucks," he said.

He said he had seen no damage around his home in northern Jamaica.

The USGS initially reported the magnitude at 7.3.

According to Jamaica's Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, tsunami waves reaching 0.3 to 1 metres or 3 ft above the tide level were possible for Kingston by 3.20 pm.

However, in a post to Facebook at 3:51 pm (JA time) the US Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said: 

"The tsunami threat for the Caribbean has passed. There is no tsunami threat."

On Tuesday morning the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre recorded a 5.3 magnitude earthquake near Trinidad and Tobago. 

This is a developing story, further details will follow. 

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