A magnitude 7.7 earthquake has struck in the Caribbean Sea between Jamaica and eastern Cuba, shaking a vast area from Mexico to Florida and beyond, but there were no reports of casualties or heavy damage.
The quake was centred 139 kilometres north-west of Montego Bay, Jamaica, and 140 kilometres west-south-west of Niquero, Cuba, according to the US Geological Survey.
It hit in the early afternoon and the epicentre was a relatively shallow 10 kilometres beneath the surface.
Dr Enrique Arango Arias, head of Cuba’s National Seismological Service, told state media that no serious damage or injuries had been reported.
Governor Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez of Mexico’s Quintana Roo, which is home to Cancun, Tulum and other popular beach resorts, said the earthquake was felt across the low-lying Caribbean state but there were no early reports of damage or injuries.
Mexico’s National Seismological Service reported the quake was felt in five states, including as far away as Veracruz, on the country’s Gulf Coast.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre initially warned that the quake could generate waves of up to a metre higher than normal in Cuba, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Honduras, Mexico and Belize. It later issued a message saying the danger had passed, although there have been reports of waves up to half a metre higher in George Town, in the Caymans.
There were also reports of sinkholes opening up in the ground in the Caymans.
The initial tremor was followed by a series of strong aftershocks, including one at magnitude 6.1.
Belkis Guerrero, who works in a Catholic cultural centre in the centre of Santiago, eastern Cuba’s biggest city, said the tremor was felt strongly there.
“We were all sitting and we felt the chairs move,” she said. “We heard the noise of everything moving around.”
She said there was no apparent damage in the heart of the colonial city.
“It felt very strong but it doesn’t look like anything happened,” she said.
Security footage shows bottles come crashing down in a Cayman Islands store as a magnitude 7.7 earthquake hit the Caribbean.
— ABC News (@ABC) January 29, 2020
It was also felt further east at the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, on the Cuba’s south-eastern coast. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damages, said J Overton, a spokesman for the installation, which has a total population of about 6000 people.
Buildings in southern Florida were evacuated as a precaution, according to city of Miami and Miami-Dade County officials. No injuries or road closures were reported. There was no shaking at the Hard Rock stadium in Miami Gardens, which will host the Super Bowl on Sunday.
In the Cayman Islands, the quake left cracked roads and what appeared to be sewage spilling from cracked mains. There were no immediate reports of deaths, injuries or more severe damage, said Kevin Morales, editor-in-chief of the Cayman Compass newspaper.
“It was just like a big dump truck was rolling past,” Morales said. “Then it continued and got more intense.”
Dr Stenette Davis, a psychiatrist at a Cayman Islands hospital, said she saw manhole covers blown off by the force of the quake, and sewage exploding into the street, but no more serious damage.
Claude Diedrick, 71, who owns a fencing business in Montego Bay, said he was sitting in his vehicle reading when the earth began to sway.
“It felt to me like I was on a bridge and like there were two or three heavy trucks and the bridge was rocking but there were no trucks,” he said.
He said he had seen no damage around his home in northern Jamaica.