KINGSTON, Jamaica – Up to mid-afternoon on Monday, there were no reports of loss of life or significant damage to buildings and infrastructure resulting from a magnitude 5.6 earthquake that shook Jamaica.
Videos and still images received by Observer Online showed damage to some old buildings in downtown Kingston.
Cracks appeared in buildings while others had more substantial damage such as chunks breaking off. In the aftermath of the quake, huge blocks of concrete from an old building at the intersection of Tower and Church streets in downtown Kingston were seen strewn along the sidewalk.
Staff at the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ) reported that the pavement of the parking lot had cracked open, and water was gushing out of the cracks.
Observer Online also received a video showing dislodged boulders blocking a road in Constitution Hill, St Andrew. However, the newspaper was unable to verify the authenticity of the video.
The quake occurred at approximately 10:57 am and was reportedly felt right across the island. The epicentre was located approximately 10 kilometres south of Buff Bay, Portland.
The Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Haiti, United States Minor Outlying Islands, and Cuba also reportedly felt the impact.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Andrew Holness urged Jamaicans to remain calm, adding that following initial assessments, damage from the earthquake appears minor, but he revealed that all earthquake protocols have been activated.
“The assessment so far is that damage has been minor but nevertheless we are taking all precautions. All the necessary protocols have been activated. At this point, I want to say to all Jamaicans remain calm. It is likely that after the initial shock, there are usually aftershocks so you want to be in a safe place,” he said. “That safe place may be outside until you have conducted an assessment of the building and you have determined that it is safe to reenter the building.”
But the quake, which violently rocked and swayed buildings, sent hundreds scampering outside in fright.
People could be seen rushing out of the Victoria Mutual Building Society office in St Andrew, while staff and customers were seen outside Flow, Access Financial Limited, and BDO Accounting buildings in the Corporate Area.
Children from the Citizens Advice Bureau Basic School on Beechwood Avenue could also be seen milling around in the schoolyard. Staff from the National Housing Trust headquarters, were also seen gathered at Emancipation Park.
There were also reports of merchandise being destroyed after they crashed to the floor in several supermarkets, including PriceSmart and Hi-Lo Barbican in St Andrew and Ramtulla in Port Antonio, Portland.
The earthquake also disrupted power supply and cell phone service across the island.
In a release, the Jamaica Public Service said the company is still in the process of evaluating the full extent of the damage to its power distribution network but says initial assessment has revealed damage to several transmission and distribution lines which resulted in the “automatic shut-down of at least one substation and two generating plants, as part of the system’s built-in protection mechanism.”