Despite a 6.1 magnitude quake on January 20 and most recently a 5.1 earthquake today, both off of Guadeloupe, the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre (SRC) is saying there is no need for panic or worry.
But, officials are urging citizens to consider these events to be reminders to stay prepared in case another large quake occurs.
Nevertheless, a larger event could happen in the region, as has happened in the past
In an interview with Loop News, SRC Seismologist Dr Rodrigo Contreras-Arratia said that the activity for 2023 is not alarming.
He said, compared to the last five years, “no, we have not observed more activity, but from time to time we record moderate size – less than magnitude 6.0 – earthquakes. Annually, the Centre records 3,000 earthquakes across the region. When considering a statistically significant time period, the seismicity has remained constant. As the islands are part of a subduction zone, we can get large earthquakes, like the magnitude 6.1 felt off Guadeloupe in January. The shaking from that was felt as far north as Anguilla and as far south as St Lucia.”
“The Eastern Caribbean is an active seismic zone
Today’s magnitude-5 quake was located at latitude 16.77N, longitude 60.86W and at a depth of 10 km. It was less than 100 km off Guadeloupe. It was 95 km North East of Point-?-Pitre, Guadeloupe, but last month the quakes seemed to be getting closer to land, with one less than 30km off St Lucia and another 35 km off Antigua. Responding to the question of whether the location of the events, if not the intensity, is a matter for concern, Dr Contreras-Arratia once more assured:
“Not at all, the locations of the earthquakes occur in different seismogenic zones. These zones are not affected by the location of the islands but rather by tectonic processes, that is, movement along faults. Some seismogenic zones are on land for example in Trinidad.”
Outside of the two above 5 magnitude quakes, there has been a series of 3.0 to 4.8 quakes up and down the Caribbean island chain for the year so far as well. For the year there have been approximately 25 recording earthquakes with seven occurring in the last six days of which one was last night just before midnight and another today around 9:13 am.
Be prepared for any earthquake event. Have emergency plans
Speaking to why the Caribbean is experiencing this activity, Dr Contreras-Arratia explained, “The Eastern Caribbean is an active seismic zone and is driven by the subduction of the North American plate below the Caribbean plate. We record moderate-size earthquakes along with larger events annually and the Centre has always advocated the need to be prepared for large-size earthquakes.”
He said that the magnitude 4.6 and 4.8 quakes “are completely normal in a subduction zone and is not evidence that there is an escalation of activity. Nevertheless, a larger event could happen in the region, as has happened in the past, and we must be prepared for such scenarios.
Asked, ‘What advice does he have for Caribbean citizens and local Disaster Management agencies?’, he said:
“Be prepared for any earthquake event. Have emergency plans and kits in place and ensure homes and businesses are earthquake safe. Practice earthquake drills at home, school and work.
“During an earthquake, stay calm. Drop, cover and hold on. Do not use elevators and stairs. If outdoors, remain outdoors. Exit buildings once the shaking stops, do not re-enter if compromised. Listen to official government agencies and follow the guidelines from the UWI Seismic Research Centre. More safety information can be found here: https://uwiseismic.com/earthquakes/preparedness/
After the shaking go to www.uwiseismic.com and complete the “Did you feel it” form (https://uwiseismic.com/connect/earthquake-feedback/). This will allow us to collect better information and improve our hazard maps.”