Earthquake M 7.7 Hits Caribbean Sea Between Jamaica, Cuba and Cayman Islands; Initially No Major Damage Report

A magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck about 1:10 p.m. CT on Tuesday, January 28, 2020 about 80 miles northwest of Jamaica, under ocean the ocean waters of the Caribbean See between Jamaica and Cuba. The countries affected by the earthquake are The Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Haiti, Honduras and Cuba.

Shaking from the earthquake was felt as as far as Miami, Florida, about 450 miles to the north-northeast. The earthquake was also felt as far away as Havana — the capital of Cuba, some evacuations occurred from taller buildings. Havana is about 350 miles northwest of the epicenter. Cuba’s state media reported the earthquake was also felt in Cienfuegos, Guantanamo, Holguín, Pinar del Río, Las Tunas, Santiago de Cuba, Havana and the Isle of Youth.

There were initially no reports of damage or casualties.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported the earthquake (M 7.7 at 19.440°N 78.755°W) had a preliminary depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles). The earthquake hit 125 kilometers (77.6 miles) north-northwest of Lucea in Jamaica.

According to the USGS, despite the large size of the earthquake, the fact that it occurred offshore and away from high population areas lessened its societal impact. The USGS estimates moderate shaking occurred on parts of Cuba and Jamaica, the two islands closest to the epicenter, and light to weak shaking across other parts of these islands. Light shaking was also reported from some parts of the Florida mainland.

Since the initial earthquake in the area at 1:10 p.m., eleven aftershocks occurred by 7:00 p.m. in a line east-southeast of the initial earthquake at …

1:32 p.m. (M 4.5),
1:41 p.m. (M 3.9),
2:29 p.m. (M 4.1)
2:39 p.m. (M 4.7)
2:59 p.m. (M 4.9)
3:55 p.m. (M 6.1),
4:16 p.m. (M 4.4),
4:45 p.m. (M 4.4),
4:58 p.m. (M 4.4),
5:04 p.m. (M 4.4),
6:41 p.m. (M 4.4).

Most of these aftershocks were just southeast of the Cayman Islands.

The earthquakes today follow an earthquake M 6.4 that occurred three weeks ago on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 near Gauanica, Puerto Rico on the southern coast and western region of Puerto Rico, which is about 780 miles east-southeast.

According to the USGS, their scientists report that this earthquake confirms what is already known about this part of the world: large earthquakes can and do happen in the Caribbean region. Given what we know about earthquake behavior, and given the distance between the magnitude 7.7 quake and the activity occurring in southwestern Puerto Rico, it is unlikely there is any relationship between these two seismic events. Typically, a M 6.4 event (the largest in the Puerto Rico sequence) will only influence activity within a few tens of kilometers or miles around itself. The distance between the earthquakes in southwestern Puerto Rico and today’s M 7.7 is approximately 1,250 kilometers or nearly 800 miles.

A tsunami threat alert was lifted Tuesday afternoon, a few hours after the quake. The USGS reports the earthquake along the Oriente Fault is a “strike-slip earthquake,” which involves tectonic plates hitting and sliding against each other — an earthquake type associated with a lower risk of a devastating tsunami. ”Thrust earthquakes,” which involves an upward push of the earth, causes the ocean water to push up and outward, and initiates the tsunami.

A tsunami of 0.4 feet was recorded in the Cayman Islands at George Town, but no tsunami was observed at Port Royal, Jamaica, or atPuerto Plata, Dominican Republic.

According to the USGS, five other earthquakes of M 6 or larger have occurred within 248 miles (400 km) of the January 28, 2020, event during the past half-century. They include a M 6.8 earthquake in December 2004, 174 miles (280 km) west of today’s earthquake, and a M 6.2 event in May 1992, almost 62 miles (100 km) east of today’s quake. None of these earthquakes are known to have resulted in shaking-related damage or fatalities, likely because of their location away from land and major population centers.

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