St. Kitts and Nevis Jolted By Earthquake

Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
November 29, 2007 (CUOPM)

St. Kitts and Nevis was one of several Caribbean countries jolted by a powerful 7.3 earthquake centered 25 miles south of Dominica.

Residents of the twin-island Federation rushed fro their homes and offices as buildings shook when the tremor struck just after three pm.

The quake felt from St. Lucia to the United States Virgin Islands abruptly ended a telephone conversation between St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas in Basseterre and the Director General of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Her Excellency Dr. Len Ishmael in Castries, where the earthquake was felt in both capitals at the same time.

As the tremor continued Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas led members of his Secretariat and other civil servants from the third floor and second floors to safety to the street outside Government Headquarters.

Minister of State for Finance, Sustainable Development, Information and Technology, Sen. the Hon. Nigel Carty and Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Hon. Dennis Merchant joined several employees of Government Headquarters in the road on Church Street.Employees of other Ministries in the Government Headquarters as well as those in the Ministry of Education, Social Development and Community Affairs and the Ministry of International Trade as well as the Government Primmer also left their offices for safety.

Employees of privately-owned businesses also left their offices.

A Fifth Form Geography Club from Washington Archibald High School was visiting the Control Tower at the Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport when the earthquake was felt.

“We were asked to leave the building in a single line, but when a piece of the ceiling fell to the ground, we were then asked to remain where a where and hold to something stationary,’ Fifth Former Trista Williams told the Communications Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister (CUOPM).

She said the control tower personnel tried to call the Seismic Unit in Trinidad, but were unsuccessful at first and it was later learnt that the airports in Dominica and St. Lucia were closed for a time.

Ms. Williams also disclosed that officials of the Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport carried out an inspection of the runway to ensure there was no damage before the American Eagle on the ground was given the greenlight to depart for San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Personnel in the Telecoms Department at Police Headquarters in Basseterre said they had received no reports on injuries or damage as a result of the strong tremor.

The Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) in Bridgetown, Barbados, reported the University of the West Indies Seismic Centre, as saying that the earthquake, centered at 14.9 north, 61.2 west, affected Martinique, Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Guadeloupe and Anguilla. There were also reports of tremors as far south as Guyana and as far north as Puerto Rico.

The Trinidad-based Centre, which described the event which occurred around 3 p.m. as one of the largest events to be recorded in the Eastern Caribbean in historic times, said there was no threat of a tsunami from this event.

The earthquake, which followed closely on the heels of a 5.2 magnitude earthquake which was felt in Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent on Wednesday, led to damage in St. Lucia, with officials in other countries reporting that the activity, which was felt for nearly one minute, led to minimal damage being initially reported.

In St. Lucia there was absolute panic in downtown Castries and surrounding areas as the island experienced its heaviest tremor in over 50 years.

Public and private sector operations in the capital were disrupted when scores of workers rushed out of their work places as buildings swayed and the ground shook for close to three minutes.

As a result of the panic there were reports of a number of persons getting hurt, while others fainted and had to be treated by paramedics who were busy during the afternoon attending to a variety of calls related to the earthquake.

There were initial reports of structural damage to the multi-storey government buildings on the Castries Waterfront and a number of other commercial structures in the north of the island.

Callers to radio stations in St. Lucia described their varying experiences and reported minor damage to houses mainly in the northern and central parts of the country.

Traffic across the northern town of Gros Islet and the capital Castries remain backed up all afternoon as traffic officers attended to numerous vehicular accidents which they said occurred close to the time of the tremor.

In Barbados, a section of a house in the central parish of St George collapsed while blocks fell from Parliament Buildings in Bridgetown and some stores along the country’s main shopping street Broad Street.

With gridlock on the roads as a result of workers abandoning their work to go home, police reported that at least one road in the north of the island developed a major crack as a result of the earthquake and eight people were treated at the Grantley Adams International Airport for panic related complaints.

In Dominica regular business was disrupted as residents and workers ran out of structures in fear but there have been no reports of damage or injury.

“The preliminary information that we have is that the event occurred 25 kilometres south southwest of Roseau that put its pretty close to Dominica, at coordinates 14.9-61.2. The magnitude was 7.3 so it was quite intense,” Coordinator of disaster management Cecil Shillingford said.

The East Caribbean Supreme Court of which is sitting in Dominica was also disrupted as members of the judiciary evacuated the court’s building.

In Grenada there was a similar situation as number of people hurriedly evacuated buildings and offices, including a church where people were attending a funeral service.

Preliminary reports indicate that there was serious damage to buildings on the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.

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