GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, Wednesday January 29, 2020 – There were no injuries but plenty of panic in Jamaica and Cayman Islands and some damage to buildings and roads as a 7.7 magnitude quake struck the northern Caribbean yesterday afternoon, triggering tsunami fears.
The quake occurred around 2:10 a.m., in the strait between Jamaica and Cuba. The location of the epicentre was 72 miles northwest of Lucea, Hanover in Jamaica and 80 miles east southeast of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
The tremor was also felt in The Bahamas, Haiti, Honduras, and Cuba. It was followed by more than a dozen aftershocks, the strongest of which registered at 6.1 magnitude.
In Jamaica, panic ensued when residents felt the first quake which many said lasted for well over a minute. People evacuated buildings as the shaking occurred and some government offices closed early. There were also reports of some students having panic attacks.
The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (OPDEM) said one school in western Jamaica, at which structural weaknesses were detected in previous inspections, was closed early as a precautionary measure.
“At least two parishes in western Jamaica have reported structural damage to buildings,” OPDEM also reported.
Over in the Cayman Islands, several sinkholes opened up in Grand Cayman and in Cayman Brac and residents were warned to keep away from them as further opening up was possible. There were also a few reports of structural damage to buildings. Two shelters were opened.
The Water Authority also shut down its distribution system to check for leaks, but late into the night was restoring service.
About two and half hours after the quake, Premier Alden McLaughlin confirmed in a televised broadcast that no one had been injured, although buildings and roads had been damaged.
“I know people are very concerned and alarmed and there has been some structural damage, including at my own house. It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I say it doesn’t appear as if anyone has been hurt and we have been spared the worst of what could have been a truly devastating ordeal,” he said.
Schools had been closed in the immediate aftermath of the quake, and a statement issued later in the day advised that all government schools will remain closed today while structural assessments of school buildings are carried out.
In both Jamaica and the Cayman Islands there were tsunami warnings issued, but by late yesterday disaster officials in both countries said the threat had passed.