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Shaken Caribbean tiptoes back to normal after shock of major quake

by Reuters
Wednesday, 29 January 2020 19:57 GMT

By Kate Chappell and Zachary Fagenson

KINGSTON/MIAMI, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Shaken Caribbean residents and tourists said on Wednesday that life was returning to normal after a powerful earthquake struck the region and rattled nerves but spared the area from serious damage to property or loss of life.

The magnitude 7.7 quake hit Tuesday afternoon in the Caribbean Sea between Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cuba, bursting drains and ripping open sinkholes.

Several aftershocks followed, including a magnitude 6.1 tremor closer to the Cayman Islands, unnerving people for hours afterwards.

"Our nerves are on edge not knowing if we're going to be safe or not," said Canadian tourist Andrew Walsh, 43, on a visit to Jamaica's Montego Bay with his family. "It is still causing us some anxiety."

In the Cayman Islands, home to about 62,000 people, many schools remained closed but most businesses were open, according to Sandra Hill, editor with Cayman Marl Road, a local news website.

"We are still feeling aftershocks. There are a lot of sinkholes," said Hill, 46. But she added that "generally speaking there is a sense of normalcy today."

The quake was also felt in Miami where several high-rise buildings were evacuated downtown.

Attorney Jake Greenberg, 33, based on the 24th floor of a Miami skyscraper, said he was not worried about returning to the office. But the tremors triggered memories of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when he was living near New York City.

"It's not something you forget," he said of the attacks. "Everyone thought (yesterday's earthquake) was nothing, you didn't feel anything, but still there was a moment that made me think of what could've happened."

In Cuba, the quake was felt in many provinces. The government said there was no damage nor injuries, after thousands of people were evacuated from buildings.

In eastern Cuba, nearest to the quake and where minor tremors are common, residents spent Wednesday morning comparing tales of being spooked by shaking beds, sofas, lamps and balconies before evacuating to the streets.

"Oh yes, we felt it all right and for quite some time," said hairdresser Nuris Lopez in Cuba's eastern Granma province.

"The pigs and chickens got really nervous," she added, laughing.

Walsh, the Canadian tourist in Jamaica, said he remains alert to more aftershocks or the possibility of a tsunami.

"This (earthquake) definitely has us on standby here," he said. "If there is a tsunami, there are lots of hills." (Reporting by Kate Chappell in Kingston and Zachary Fagenson in Miami; additional reporting by Marc Frank in Havana; writing by Drazen Jorgic; editing by Heather Timmons)

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