BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, November 29, 2007 – Horrified and scared people poured into the streets of Caribbean countries as one of the most powerful earthquakes ever shook islands for hundreds of miles.
The brunt of the damage was in Martinique where several buildings and a bank collapsed but a Caribbean 360 correspondent in Fort-de-France could not immediately confirm whether there were any casualties.
One caller told Radio Martinique that her house shook so hard, she thought it was about to collapse.
“The door, the windows, everything shook,” she said.
The quake measuring 7.4 on the Richter Scale was centred at a depth of 90 miles in the Caribbean sea between Martinique and Dominica.
Biggest in three decades
In Dominica a deputy editor of the Chronicle Newspaper told Caribbean 360 said that it was the biggest to ever hit the Nature Isle in recent memory.
“It was the longest I ever felt,” Carlisle Jn Baptiste said.
“We also had one yesterday which shook Roseau but that was 5.2 on the Richter Scale.
“Today’s quake was massive, centred close to the capital according to the national disaster office.”
He said people were screaming and running out of buildings.
The Seismic Research Unit said it was the strongest quake in the Caribbean since 1974.
That same scene was reported as far south as Venezuela and Guyana in South America and as far north as the US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.
‘Brings back memories’
In Barbados, the entire island of 166 square miles was shaken by what would have been an equivalent 3.0 on the Richter Scale according to the comparative Modified Mercalli chart which is used to measure the intensity of the quake as felt by people on the surface of the land.
“I was lying down in my bed and my head started to ‘swing’ (dizzy),” one woman from St Philip told Caribbean 360.
“Then I remember when I was a child, I had the same feel and granny snatching up us, rushing us outside and telling us it was an earthquake.”
Homes and offices swayed for about 20 seconds causing things on shelves to fall.
The capital, Bridgetown, was busier than normal as thousands of people were in town for a competition of thousands of dollars in cash prizes when the quake struck around 3pm EST creating pandemonium in the streets.
“I was on the fourth floor of an apartment, recently constructed, when it started to shake and the first thing that came to mind was ‘Britton’s Hill’,” another man related.
He was referring to an incident where an apartment block collapsed through a cave – on which it was constructed – killed a family of four as they slept.
In St Lucia, Julian Dubois, deputy director of the National Emergency Management Organisation said it was “the strongest this century” for his country which lies to the south of Martinique.
“There have been no reports of significant damage apart from water lines and water tanks,” he said.
One building was reported to have structural damage in the British Virgin Islands.
Dr Richie Robertson, director of the Seismic Research Unit in Trinidad and Tobago, said the submarine quake was unlikely to have triggered a tsunami because of the depth at which it had occurred.
Other countries affected by the earthquake were Antigua, Anguilla, St Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, northern Venezuela, and northern Colombia.