Earthquake rattles British Virgin Islands

TORTOLA, British Virgin Islands, Wednesday April 13, 2011 - An earthquake measuring a magnitude of 5.14 on the Richter Scale was felt throughout the Virgin Islands at approximately 12:28 a.m this Wednesday morning.  

A report issued by the BVI’s Department of Disaster Management indicated that the epicenter was located near 18.78N and 64.28 West or 8.36km NE of Anegada, 35. 31Km NE of Virgin Gorda or 54.23Km NE of Road Town, Virgin Islands at a depth of 25 miles.

The disaster managers added that after consulting with the Puerto Rico Seismic Network it was decided that there was no need for a tsunami bulletin. The report added that no damage from the earthquake was evident but the department reminded BVI residents that they lived in a seismically active zone, vulnerable to earthquakes, and therefore all precautions should be taken during an earthquake, such as staying calm, and moving away from items that could fall on an individual and do injury. 

This earthquake has been one in a series of dozens of seismic shocks that have been experienced recently along the fault lines that run under the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. 

According to the Puerto Rico Seismic Network, a “seismic swarm” took place earlier this month in which 107 seismic events, including 36 minor and micro earthquakes, took place between April 4 and 5 alone. In that first week, stated the earthquake monitoring agency, 51 earthquakes were experienced in the region between Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. 

This activity is a result of the fault lines that run through the Puerto Rico Trench in the North, a convergence zone where the North American plate sinks underneath Puerto Rico, the Muertos Trench in the South where the Caribbean plate sinks underneath Puerto Rico, and fault systems at the Mona Canyon, as well as in the Anegada Passage. As such, the seismic unit described the level of activity as “normal” for the region in its April 6 press release. 

However, acting director of the unit Victor Huérfano did caution residents of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands late last month that the two territories were “more exposed to a tsunami effect”.

Noting that the USVI had experienced a tsunami in 1867, while one struck Puerto Rico in 1918, Huérfano warned: “We do not know when the next earthquake or tsunami will take place, but it will depend on our collective and individual preparedness to significantly reduce our vulnerability”.

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