Caribbean countries warned to be prepared as major earthquakes hit Puerto Rico

The Trinidad-based Seismic Research Centre (SRC) of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Tuesday (Jan 7) said that the recent earthquakes in Puerto Rico should serve as a reminder to the Caribbean “that our region is seismically active and we always need to be prepared.”

Earthquake reading

On Monday, an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.7 rocked Puerto Rico and it was followed by a stronger quake with a magnitude of 5.4 on Tuesday. The SRC said that Monday’s quake was a “foreshock” to the 6.4 quake on Tuesday.

US officials said power outages and damage have been reported near the island’s southern coast, including in the city of Ponce, where a 77-year-old man was killed and at least eight others were injured.

The US Geological Survey said the quake also affected several other countries including the Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Saint Martin, Sint Maarten, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, Turks and Caicos Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“The recent earthquakes around Puerto Rico serves as a reminder that our region is seismically active and we always need to be prepared,” the SRC said, adding that “although we do not monitor that area, sharing of knowledge is key to better understanding and living with these geological hazards”.

According to information posted on the SRC website, the biggest earthquake in an earthquake sequence is called the mainshock.

“The recent earthquakes around Puerto Rico serves as a reminder that our region is seismically active and we always need to be prepared”

— Seismic Research Centre (SRC) of the University of the West Indies (UWI)

“Mainshocks are followed by lots of smaller earthquakes called aftershocks. Occasionally an earthquake will be followed by a larger event. In that case, we call the first earthquake a “foreshock” and the new, larger event a “mainshock”. There’s nothing inherently different about the earthquakes themselves, it’s just terminology explaining when they occur in relation to each other.”

In recent days, several Caribbean countries have been rocked by earthquakes ranging in magnitudes from 3.9 to 4.3.