When I noticed yesterday afternoon, about 2.10pm, that the sense of shaking was another earthquake, I quickly got under a coffee table, covered my head, and held onto one of its legs. It is a low table and I was cramped but I was trying to follow the ‘Duck, Cover, Hold’ protocol. The shaking went on for a long time; I didn’t time it but it was at least 30 seconds. I called out to our housekeeper to do as I had but she was still walking around the kitchen.
When the shaking stopped, I started with messages to check whether my wife and some friends had felt the shake and were OK; all were. My wife had been driving in her car and felt it; in the past, she’d not felt in while in the car. Later in the day, I used the Facebook feature to mark myself safe.
The shaking hadn’t felt that strong to me, so I was surprised to read that it was a 7.7 quake on the Richter scale, but that’s thanks to how the plates had moved and the epicentre being out at sea, to an area NNW of Jamaica.
Communications are now so fast that it was no time before the flow of news and stories started to filter across my devices, and videos of shaking and damage in the Cayman Islands were startling. That was the only place I saw that had noticeable physical damage. Stories started to flow of people and their reactions in Jamaica and as far away as Mexico and Miami. Little seemed to be reported about Cuba. A tsunami warning was issued, but we were given an ‘all clear’ about an hour after the quake. Reports of aftershocks appeared, of around 4.5 intensity, but I never felt any more shaking. I did not have any dizzy feelings after, often a reaction to a quake.
Many of the local reports were of people being shocked and scared, especially those in high-rise buildings, and stories and scenes of evacuations were many. The protocol didn’t seem to be much observed. I can understand because most times the natural reaction is to escape and running outside seems to deal with the risk of debris falling inside; the risk of falling debris and other risks when outside gets missed. But, let me not dwell on that; there’s not a lot of time to react and instincts take over fast.
I went outside to check our house for any signs of clear structural damage and saw nothing. I spoke to our security guard and he was not really clued up, and had sat outside reading the paper during the tremor, but I gave him some useful advice.
Well, this is now at least the fourth quake I have experienced in Jamaica since coming back in 2013. They have been more frequent in the region, so I am less-surprised when tremours occur. None of them shook me like the one in Barbados in 2007, which was 7.4 and about 170 miles off the coast. I remember things in my office moving, including the rolling chair on which I was sitting, and seeing my Suzuki Swift car bouncing around in the car port. I went outside, then, and saw people milling in the street. Later, friends talked about what had happened in offices, with shelves falling, etc. It was also mid-afternoon.
Lots of people are going to try to join dots and it will not escape some that Jamaica has been hit by two major quakes over 7, devastating Kingston in 1907 and sinking Port Royal in 1692. Of course, it was just last week that Port Royal had its first cruise ship of visitors land, and several visited the major remains of that past quake, the so-called ‘Giddy House’.
Superstitious people will say quickly “It’s a leap year…”
It put Jamaica into the world news flow for a few hours. Some people are often keen to say #JamaicaTrending; I noticed yesterday that wasn’t something I saw much.
Anyway, all are well here, as a new dawn breaks. But, I know that the level of nervousness will be there, strongly, today.