The U.S. Geological Survey has charted a 7.7-magnitude earthquake in south Cuba and northwest of Jamaica, which some residents in South Florida are reporting they felt.
It was centered about 86 miles north-northwest of Montego Bay, Jamaica, and 97 miles west-southwest of Niquero, Cuba, making waves beginning about 2:10 p.m. Tuesday, according to the survey’s report. The epicenter was a relatively shallow 6 miles beneath the surface. The Richter scale qualifies earthquakes between 7.0 and 7.9 as major earthquakes, causing “widespread, heavy” damage.
The massive 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. A magnitude 6.5 aftershock was later reported west of the earthquake’s epicenter, Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Brad Nitz.
The quake could be felt strongly in Santiago, the largest city in eastern Cuba, said Belkis Guerrero, who works in a Catholic cultural center there.
“We were all sitting and we felt the chairs move,” she told The Associated Press. “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.
It was also felt a little farther 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 population of about 6,000.
Residents in Miami reported that several downtown buildings were evacuated due to the towering edifices “swaying” and “shaking badly.”
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez released a statement via his Twitter account about 3:50 p.m. Tuesday, stating the city is monitoring developments.
“With reports of shaking being felt in Downtown #Miami and #Brickell after a reported 7.7 magnitude earthquake between Cuba and Jamaica, the @CityofMiami,” Suarez said in his tweet, is closely monitoring for any developments or updates.
There were reports of evacuations at downtown Miami towers, including the Echo Brickell Condos, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Datran II Center.
The buildings were evacuated for about 30 minutes Tuesday afternoon after the buildings’ occupants reported feeling tremors, according to a Miami Herald report. Eli Stiers told the Herald that while sitting in his office at the penthouse of Museum Tower, he felt an odd movement all around him.
“I didn’t know whether I had some bad sushi for lunch or what. But then I looked at my office door and saw it teetering on its hinges. I asked people in the office if they felt it. When people stopped for a second and registered what was going on, they said yes, the building is moving.” — Eli Stiers
Stiers and other occupants of the building reported that the quaking lasted about three minutes.
Twitter users in Jamaica also shared some footage of the earthquake’s impact. Others posted footage from the Grand Cayman Islands, where tremors were visible at local pools.
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 members 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.
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 has issued a form for those affected by the earthquake, suggesting that any residents who felt the effect of the quake to offer information here. The USGS initially reported the magnitude at 7.3.
More on earthquakes:
This story is developing. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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