St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, December 7th, 2016 (UWI) - On Tuesday evening 6th December, at 5:42PM local time, a strong earthquake occurred near Trinidad and Tobago about 15 km south-east of Scarborough, Tobago and 99km north-east of Port of Spain, Trinidad. This event was of magnitude 6.1 and was widely reported as felt in Trinidad and Tobago and neighbouring islands.
The last earthquake of this magnitude in this general area was followed by hundreds of aftershocks continuing at high level for several months, and this earthquake is expected to manifest a similar pattern, with over 200 aftershocks already recorded. There were felt reports of at least three aftershocks thus far, the largest occurring at 00:24am local time at a magnitude of 4.9 and at a depth of 17km.
We have not received any reports of structural damage thus far. Some felt reports included items falling from shelves and moderate shaking of fixtures.
It is important to note the earthquakes are tectonic and have occurred because of the movement of the Earth’s plates. The Earth’s crust is made up of plates (slabs of rock), which are constantly moving; the zone where these plates meet is called a plate boundary, which is comprised of a system of faults of varying sizes. The Eastern Caribbean is an example of an island arc system formed at a convergent plate boundary (more specifically, at a subduction zone, where two tectonic plates meet and the denser plate is forced beneath the less dense plate). This is the main cause of all the seismic activity in the Eastern Caribbean. In general, earthquakes tectonic earthquakes are generated when accumulated energy within the faults making up the plate boundary is released.
Understanding our vulnerability to these events and being prepared for earthquakes is, therefore, of utmost importance. Here are some tips on what to do before and during an earthquake:
- Become actively involved in community preparedness organisations in your district. Call your local disaster response agency for contact information.
- Unstable, heavy furniture should be fastened to a wall or bolted to the floor. When loading storage cabinets heavy objects should be placed on lower shelves.
- Water heaters and other appliances should be firmly bolted down.
- All family members should know how to turn off electricity, gas and water using safety valves and main switches.
- Family members should know basic First Aid steps.
- Purchase emergency equipment such as battery-operated radios and fire extinguishers for your home.
- Always have non-perishable food items in stock.
- Do not panic, stay calm.
- Always protect your head and face.
- If inside a building, stand in a strong doorway, or get under a desk, table or bed. Do not try to run out of the building as most injuries from falling debris occur in this way.
- Move away from outer walls, windows, glass doors, heavy mirrors, pictures, bookcases, hanging plants and heavy objects.
- Look out for falling plaster, bricks, lighting fixtures and other objects.
- Do not use elevators.
- If you are outside, stay there. Stand away from buildings, trees, and electricity lines.
- If you are driving, you should safely bring the vehicle to a stop away from electricity poles and overhead wires. Remain in the vehicle.
For updates on these and other geologic events occurring in the region please visit the Seismic Research Unit’s website at www.uwiseismic.com. Based at the University of the West Indies in St. Augustine Trinidad, the Seismic Research Unit is the agency responsible for monitoring earthquakes and volcanoes throughout the English-speaking Eastern Caribbean.