HAVANA, Cuba – A powerful magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck in the Caribbean Sea between Jamaica and eastern Cuba on Tuesday, shaking a vast area from Mexico to Florida and beyond, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or heavy damage.
The quake was centered 139 kilometers (86 miles) northwest of Montego Bay, Jamaica, and 140 kilometers (87 miles) west-southwest of Niquero, Cuba, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It hit at 2:10 p.m. (1910 GMT) and the epicenter was a relatively shallow 10 kilometers (6 miles) beneath the surface.
The quake could be felt strongly in Santiago, the largest city in eastern Cuba, said Belkis Guerrero, who works in a Catholic cultural center in the center of Santiago
“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 told The Associated Press.
It was also felt a little further east at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on the southeastern coast of the island. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damages, said J. Overton, a spokesman for the installation, which has a total population of about 6,000 people.
Several South Florida buildings were being evacuated as a precation, according to city of Miami and Miami-Dade County officials. No injuries or road closures have been reported.
The quake also hit the Cayman Islands, leaving 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.
The islands see so few earthquakes that newsroom staff were puzzled when it hit, he said.
″‘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 had seen 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.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake could generate waves 1 to 3 feet above normal in Cuba, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Honduras, Mexico and Belize.
The USGS initially reported the magnitude at 7.3.
The sensors at Virginia Tech picked up the seismic activity which is over 1300 miles away.