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7.7 magnitude earthquake hits Caribbean, sparked tsunami fears

Jack Burton



PHOTO: A map showing the epicentre of Tuesday's magnitude 7.7 earthquake

An earthquake, followed by a series of strong aftershocks, struck yesterday in the Caribbean Sea, shaking the area from Florida to Mexico. The tremor had a magnitude of 7.7 but apparently caused no casualties or major damage.

The initial tremor struck at 2:10 pm Eastern Time and was centered 86 miles northwest of Montego Bay, Jamaica and 87 miles west-southwest of Niquero, Cuba, according to the US Geological Survey. Its depth was relatively shallow at 6 miles beneath the surface.

The USGS initially put the quake’s magnitude at 7.3 but later upgraded it to 7.7. The aftershocks so far have topped out at a magnitude 6.1. The USGS Warning Centre says the threat of a tidal wave has passed.

There are no immediate reports of damage or injuries, but the quake caused very strong to severe shaking in portions of far western Jamaica, capable of moderate to heavy damage, the USGS said. Moderate shaking was felt on Grand Cayman Island, while light shaking was reported on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The Bahamas, Haiti and Honduras were also affected.

The quake was felt in five states in Mexico and as far away as South Florida and even the Eastern part of Cuba.

A psychiatrist at a Cayman Islands hospital said she saw manhole covers blown off by the force of the quake and sewage exploding onto the street, but no more serious damage.

71 year old Claude Diedrick of Montego Bay said the shaking felt “like I was on a bridge. It was like there were two or three heavy trucks and the bridge was rocking, but there were no trucks.”

Tuesday’s quake is the fourth magnitude 7 or greater earthquake in the Caribbean since 2000, according to AccuWeather. It appears to have occurred on a fault line between the North American and Caribbean plates, according to USGS seismologist Lucy Jones.

The last month has been an extremely active period for earthquakes in the Caribbean. The southern part of Puerto Rico was hit by a sequence of quakes that began on December 28 with a magnitude 4.7 shaker and was followed on January 7 by a magnitude 6.4 aftershock, then a 5.2 on January 15, according to USA Today.

The USGS said the sequence has produced more than 300 quakes bigger than magnitude 3, the level which can be felt by humans.

SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times


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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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