Government offices closed early and some businesses were evacuated yesterday after some people on the northeast coast of New Providence reported feeling tremors from a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that took place in the Caribbean Sea.
“At 2:10 p.m. there was an earthquake that occurred just to south of Cuba, that’s to the northwest of Jamaica and east of the Cayman Islands,” said Kaylinda Ward-Forbes, chief meteorological officer in the Department of Meteorology.
“Initially, they had it at 7.3 on the Richter scale but now they have sent an upgrade saying that it had a magnitude of 7.7 on the Richter scale. And where it occurred that is actually in Cuban waters and there has been warnings issued for tsunami waves mainly to affect the southern coast of Cuba and the Cayman Islands and the northern coast of Jamaica. Right now, no island of The Bahamas has been included in that.”
She added, “The Bahamas is not mentioned because where it occurred, the island of Cuba – you know Cuba is a huge landmass and that would be blocking any waves that would occur. So right now it poses no immediate threat to our islands, which is a good thing.”
According to Ward-Forbes, residents on the southernmost island of Inagua did not report feeling any tremors.
However, she said that the department did receive reports of “one or two” people on New Providence who felt the effects.
CFAL Chairman James Smith was one resident who said he felt it while at work, adding that at first he was not sure what was going on.
“It was a slight tremor, in the sense that I was sitting at the desk and I felt the desk seemingly moving up and down but very slightly,” Smith told The Nassau Guardian of his experience.
“And I took my hands off the desk to see if I was leaning on it, and I still felt the movement in the room.
“I put my hands on my heart because I figured I must be having a heart attack and when it passed it was a very slight tremor but enough to, I suppose, move the building.”
Smith noted that while he and others with offices on the upper floors felt the tremors, those on the ground level did not seem to feel anything.
Nonetheless, he confirmed, the Colina building on East Bay Street was evacuated for about 20 minutes, until their emergency officer deemed it safe to return to work.
The Cabinet office also released a statement later in the day in which it stated that “due to tremors felt in buildings on East Bay Street and Shirley Street, in an abundance of caution, government buildings were closed around 3:00 p.m.”
The Guardian understands the Churchill Building where the Cabinet Office was also evacuated after tremors were felt as the afternoon session of Cabinet got underway.
By 3 p.m., photos, videos and posts were beginning to surface on social media showing the experience of not just Bahamians but also those in the Cayman Islands and Jamaica.
Alveta Adderley-Knight, of the Bahamas Honorary Consul in Jamaica, said that their offices maintained normal working hours as they are more accustomed to feeling tremors from time to time.
However, she noted that her experience was the most “traumatic” one she has had.
“I was at a stop light and my car started to shake, and shake and shake and shake, and I was like, ‘Oh!’ And ironically I was on the phone, on a telephone call, with a friend of mine who had just pulled in to collect her daughter from St. Andrew’s High School where apparently the building was creaking and it was a lot,” Adderley-Knight said yesterday.
“So, she actually alerted me to the fact that something was wrong and she said her car was [also] shaking. And then shortly after, she was some distance away from where I was, and my car started to shake.
“It lasted for, in terms of tremor time, it lasted a little longer than previous tremors we’ve had here in Jamaica. Not a little, quite a lot longer I should say.”
She added, “…[Having] lived in Jamaica for a number of years, I’ve experienced tremors before. But again, this was one of the most, I don’t want to say frightening, but definitely one of the most traumatic of them all.”
Adderley-Knight told The Guardian that the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona released a statement advising that the tsunami warning had been discontinued yesterday evening, but that the consular office was continuing to stay alert.
She also said that Bahamian students at UWI in Jamaica seem understandably “shaken” by the experience, but are otherwise unharmed.
“I haven’t heard any confirmed evacuations here in Jamaica, but I do know that everybody was watching carefully to see if anything that should happen,” Adderley-Knight said.
“There’s not a tsunami warning, and the University of the West Indies issued something to indicate that there is none…
“There was definitely a very long tremor, everybody is definitely frightened. I know my Bahamian students are definitely shaken up, because for quite a few of them who are new to campus this would be a first time experience for them.
“The University of the West Indies has not alerted me to anything outside of the norm, so I assume that all is still well and I don’t see anything from my Bahamian Students Association executive indicating otherwise.”
According to Ward-Forbes at the Department of Meteorology, “there’s no cause of concern for us right now” in The Bahamas.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said in a statement yesterday that there were no reports of injuries or damage from the tremors in The Bahamas.