Magnitude 7.7 earthquake jolts Caribbean, sparks tsunami fears throughout region

Brian Lada

A powerful earthquake struck the Caribbean on Tuesday afternoon, shaking parts of Jamaica and Cuba shortly after 2 p.m. local time and rising fears of a dangerous tsunami.

The earthquake was originally rated a 7.3 by the USGS but was later upgraded to a 7.7. The epicenter of the earthquake was 78 miles (125 km) northwest of Lucea, Jamaica, and was shallow with a depth of just 6.2 miles (10 km).

Shortly after the powerful earthquake jolted the Caribbean, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) warned of the potential for hazardous tsunami waves as high as 1 meter (3 feet) along some coasts of Belize, Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands.

Roughly 30 minutes after the shaking had stopped, a tsunami wave of 0.11 of a meter (0.4 of a foot) was officially observed at George Town, Cayman Islands. No tsunami waves were observed at Jamaica or the Dominican Republic, with the tsunami danger passing by 4 p.m. local time Tuesday.

Shaking was felt as far away as Miami, Florida, and reports began surfacing on social media that high-rise buildings were felt swaying. Twitter users posted video footage on the platform showing people streaming out of office buildings in Miami, as helicopters buzzed overhead.

Some reports had suggested that Miami International Airport had been evacuated following the shaking. However, the airport refuted this claim, stating that there were no evacuations and that operations have remained normal.

Tuesday's magnitude 7.7 earthquake was the strongest to hit the region since a magnitude 8.1 quake struck near the Dominican Republic on Aug. 4, 1946.

This was also the strongest earthquake anywhere on the globe since a magnitude 8.0 earthquake hit near Peru on May 26, 2019, according to USGS records.

The U.S. Geological Survey also reported a magnitude 6.5 aftershock near the Cayman Islands shortly after the earthquake.