On Tuesday, 28 January 2020 at 2.10 p.m. (local time), a 7.7 magnitude earthquake occurred south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica at a depth of 10km. Strong shocks were felt across the Cayman Islands.
Despite initial concerns, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center confirmed there was no tsunami threat to islands in the region at 3.49 p.m. based on data available.
Following the earthquake, and as an immediate precaution, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) helicopter was deployed to survey the coastal areas Grand Cayman for signs of damage and potential tsunami waves. No such evidence was observed during these trips.
A series of aftershocks were felt in the three hours that followed the initial earthquake. Hazard Management Cayman Islands coordinated public warnings, including the activation of a radio interrupt system and made preparations for opening public shelters, should the need arise.
A preliminary damage assessment is currently underway and no confirmed reports of any injuries have been received. Several sinkholes have appeared on all three islands.
Utility services were temporarily interrupted in some residential areas. All services are expected to be fully operational shortly. Airports, hotels, cruise operations and businesses are operating without interruption as normal.
His Excellency, the Governor, Mr Martyn Roper said: “I would like to thank Hazard Management, our first responders and all our law enforcement agencies for their outstanding response to this serious earthquake. The RCIPS helicopter was deployed immediately and quickly in the air and was invaluable as we assessed the developing situation. I praise the people of the Islands for their resilience and support to each other. We are fortunate there was no loss of life or injury. Our airport and port are operating normally and we look forward to welcoming the large number of tourists who will visit in the next few days.”
The Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin said: “I’m extremely grateful that after such a significant earthquake we have come through fairly well. There were no injuries and no serious structural damage has been reported. We will though remain vigilant over the next 24 hours. I’d like to thank the Hazard Management Cayman Islands team and government communication team for their swift response in getting the message out to everyone. I wish to also thank those Caribbean leaders who called me to check that all was well.”
The Minister for Financial Services and Home Affairs, Hon. Tara Rivers said: “Hazard Management Cayman Islands confirmed the Cayman Islands were cleared of any tsunami warning at 3.54 p.m. and will continue to monitor for aftershocks. The Department of Public Safety and Communications (911) are providing ongoing support to our communities across the three islands. Thankfully, no injuries have been reported and only limited reports of any significant damage to our infrastructure have been received. We continue to monitor the situation and will remain vigilant.”
Deputy Premier and Minister for District Administration Tourism and Transport, Hon. Moses Kirkconnell said: “We are grateful that the Cayman Islands did not sustain any major damage across our three islands and that no injuries to residents or visitors were reported after today’s earthquake. We are thankful for everyone’s concern and good wishes. Airports, hotels, cruise ships and attractions are operating as usual with no interruption and we look forward to continuing to welcome our many visitors from across the globe who are looking forward to a memorable vacation and enjoying our beautiful beaches.”