BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – Scores of people were sent scampering into the streets, buildings swayed, electricity was knocked out and panic and confusion gripped Trinidad and Tobago as a strong 5.8-magnitude earthquake jolted the southern Caribbean republic Friday and was felt in four southern Caribbean states from Guyana north to St Lucia.
The epicenter of the quake, which occurred at 9.08 East Caribbean Time (1308 GMT), was located less than five kilometers from Trinidad’s north coast, the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Unit, based in Trinidad, reported, after upgrading its original estimate of force at 5.5. There were not reports of major damage or injuries.
The Piarco International Airport closed shortly after the quake and reopened in the early afternoon as several delayed flights began to arrive. Government disaster experts gave the all-clear after the airport was inspected.
At the Trinidad Hilton, the secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, stepped away from the podium mid-stream in his speech to regional tourism officials, while drinking glasses rattled and ceiling tiles fell. A CMC correspondent recalled that he initially thought that an unusually oversized juggernaut was rumbling by his office.
“It was the strongest earthquake I ever experienced. People in the office started running towards the exit or hid under desks,” said one man in a Port of Spain office.
In a second, 5.1-magnitude, aftershock at 2.23 p.m., a shopper on Charlotte Street in the capital, Port of Spain, dropped his mobile phone and started running as fellow shoppers rushed on to the street. Some store owners shut shops and the government closed schools and government offices early.
Paul Saunders, director of the Office of Disaster Preparedness Management in Port of Spain told CMC “we did not have any significant side effects either physically or geologically” from either the original earthquake or the aftershock.
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