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7.7 magnitude earthquake on the coast of Jamaica, causing great destruction.

7.7 magnitude earthquake on the coast of Jamaica, causing great destruction.

An earthquake of magnitude 7.7 struck in the Caribbean, on Tuesday, prompting off evacuation warnings and tsunami warnings to areas including holiday hotspots such as Belize, Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Only 20 earthquakes of greater than magnitude 7.0 were experienced across the world.

The tsunami showed signs of waves rising to 3.5-feet above the normal tide level along the coasts. However, the International Tsunami Information Centre later confirmed that the threat had largely passed.

Horrendous tremors were felt as far as Florida while the quake also hit the Cayman Islands, leaving cracked roads, sewage spilling from cracked mains & massive sinkholes unfolding in the roads of Jamaica causing water cuts to many affected areas.

The epicentre of the quake was six miles below the surface of the ocean, along a strike-slip fault, which the USGS explained it as a “nearly vertical fracture where the blocks have mostly moved horizontally.” The earthquake occurred on the plate boundary between the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates, which prompted fears of extensive damage.

The quake began around 2 pm and was 73 miles away from Lucea, Jamaica, and shakes were reported across nearby islands.

The Cayman Islands were also rocked by strong aftershocks that followed in the area, including one that measured at magnitude 6.1. The quake caused small landslides and power outages around the island. 

Mexico’s National Seismological Service reported that the quake was felt in five states including as far away as Veracruz, on the country’s Gulf Coast. Initially, Jamaica, Cuba and the Cayman Islands were all said to be at risk.   

Hotels on the Cayman Islands were forced to drive guests out of the buildings, schools and offices were also evacuated as the tremors continued. It was reported that public schools were shut down for Wednesday.  

The earthquake caused severe tremors in the far west of Jamaica, but there were no reported casualties or heavy damage. As an act of precaution flights to Jamaican Airports, Kingston and Montego Bay were suspended.

The FCO is yet to issue a travel warning for British tourists in the area. Even so, the FCO does offer general advice for those who find themselves at a tsunami risk zone, according to the website: “If a major earthquake or landslide occurs close to shore, you should follow the instructions of local authorities, bearing in mind that a tsunami could arrive within minutes.”

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre is continuing to monitor the situation and provide updates.

In the event of an earthquake, FEMA advises taking the three following steps:

  • Drop wherever you are on to your hands and knees.
  • Cover your head and neck with your arms. If a sturdy table or desk is nearby, crawl underneath it for shelter. If no shelter is nearby, crawl next to an interior wall (away from windows). 
  • If you are under a table or desk, hold on with one hand and be ready to move with it if it moves. If you can’t find a table or desk, cover your head and neck with both arms and hands. If seated and unable to drop to the floor, bend forward, cover your head with your arms, and hold on to your neck with both hands.
  • In the aftermath of an earthquake, the FCO instructs affected travellers to follow the advice of the local authorities.

In the event of a tsunami, FEMA warns to take the following steps:

  • Get to high ground as far inland as possible.
  • Be alert to signs of a tsunami, such as a sudden rise or draining of ocean waters.
  • Listen to emergency information and alerts.
  • Evacuate: DO NOT wait! Leave as soon as you see any natural signs of a tsunami or receive an official tsunami warning
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