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Magnitude 7.7 earthquake hits off the coasts of Jamaica and Cuba

Last Updated Jan 28, 2020 at 7:53 pm MST

A powerful magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck in the Caribbean Sea between Jamaica and eastern Cuba on Tuesday, shaking a vast area from Mexico to Florida and beyond, but there were no reports 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, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It hit at 2:10 p.m. (1910 GMT) and the epicenter was a relatively shallow 10 kilometres (6 miles) beneath the surface.

Dr. Enrique Arango Arias, head of Cuba’s National Seismological Service, told state media that there had been no serious damage or injuries reported on the island.

The Cayman Islands were rocked by several of the strong aftershocks that followed in the area, including one measured at magnitude 6.1. Water was cut off to much of Grand Cayman Island, and public schools were cancelled for Wednesday

Gov. Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez of Mexico’s Quintana Roo state, which is home to Cancun, Tulum and other popular beach resorts, said the earthquake was felt in multiple parts of the low-lying Caribbean state but there were no reports of damage or injuries.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially warned that the quake could generate waves 1 to 3 feet above normal in Cuba, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Honduras, Mexico and Belize, but issued a later message saying the danger had passed.

The quake was felt strongly in Santiago, the largest city in eastern Cuba, said Belkis Guerrero, who works in a Roman Catholic cultural centre in the centre of Santiago

“We were all sitting and we felt the chairs move,” she said. “We heard the noise of everything moving around.”

She said there was no apparent damage in the heart of the colonial city.

“It felt very strong but it doesn’t look like anything happened,” she told The Associated Press.

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.

Kingston also felt strong shaking but no immediate damage was apparent.

Drew Wilson, who splits his time between Kingston and Toronto says the shaking lasted about a minute. He felt the couch shake and saw chandeliers swinging in his home but added that people he spoke to in Negril say it was much stronger there.

CityNews reporter Ginella Massa spoke to Wilson about his experience. Listen below:

680 NEWS spoke to Reena in Negril who was on the beach when the earthquake hit and initially wasn’t sure the ground was actually shaking.

“We were standing here smoking a joint and we had to assess whether or not it was what we were partaking in or whether it was really happening,” she explained, laughing. “But no, there was no question – literally, you felt a shift from left to right,” she says.

680 NEWS’ Richard Southern spoke to Reena about her experience. Listen below:

The USGS initially reported the magnitude at 7.3.