2020 Caribbean earthquake

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2020 Caribbean earthquake
2020-01-28 Lucea, Jamaica M7.7 earthquake shakemap (USGS).jpg
Shakemap from USGS
2020 Caribbean earthquake is located in Caribbean
2020 Caribbean earthquake
UTC time2020-01-28 19:10:25
ISC event617210084
Local date28 January 2020 (2020-01-28)
Local time14:10:25
Magnitude7.7 Mw[1]
Depth10.0 km (6 mi)
Epicenter19°26′24″N 78°45′18″W / 19.440°N 78.755°W / 19.440; -78.755Coordinates: 19°26′24″N 78°45′18″W / 19.440°N 78.755°W / 19.440; -78.755
FaultSeptentrional-Oriente fault zone
Areas affectedCaribbean
Max. intensityVI (Strong)
Tsunami12.2 cm (0.4 ft) at George Town, Cayman Islands
AftershocksUp to 6.1 Mw[2]

At 2:10 p.m. local time (UTC-5) on 28 January 2020, an earthquake of 7.7 Mw struck on the north side of the Cayman Trough, north of Jamaica and west of the southern tip of Cuba, with the epicenter being 83 miles north of Montego Bay.[3] Schools in Jamaica and buildings in Miami were evacuated after shaking was observed in parts of the U.S. state of Florida.[4][5] Light shaking was also reported on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico.[6] It is the largest earthquake in the Caribbean since 1946.[7] A tsunami warning for the Caribbean Sea was issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and later withdrawn.[8]

Tectonic setting[edit]

The eastern part of the Cayman Trough forms part of the Gonâve Microplate, which lies between the North American Plate and the Caribbean Plate. It is bounded to both north and south by large transform faults that together accommodate the relative displacement of the two major plates. To the north the boundary is the western part of the Septentrional-Oriente fault zone, which accommodates 6–11 mm per year of plate boundary motion, while to the south the boundary is formed by the Walton fault zone to the west of Jamaica and the Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault zone to the east, accommodating about 8 mm per year.[9]


The earthquake had a magnitude of 7.7 Mww  and an estimated depth of 14.8 km.[1] The focal mechanism, combined with an analysis of seismic waveforms, is consistent with strike-slip motion on the Septentrional-Oriente fault zone.[10] The mainshock was followed by a series of aftershocks, with the largest being a 6.1 Mww  event that occurred less than three hours later, to the southeast of Grand Cayman.[11] The modelled rupture zone extends from just west of the epicenter of the M 6.1 aftershock to just east of the mainshock epicenter.[10]


Cayman Islands[edit]

There were cracked roads and sinkholes.[12] A minor tsunami of 12.2 cm (0.4 ft) was recorded.[13] All government schools were closed to allow inspections for possible damage, but they were all reopened on January 30 as none had been found that related to the earthquake.[14]


A six-story building on the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies, containing approximately 300 students, was evacuated.[15] Damage was reported from at least two parishes in western Jamaica.[16]

Students and staff of Merl Grove High School evacuated every building and gathered orderly at designated assembly points on the campus.[citation needed]


Tremors were felt on the southern coast of the island. A spokesman for Guantanamo Bay Naval Base stated that there were no reports of damages or injuries. [17] Granma Province was affected by the strongest shaking, being closest to the epicenter. A survey carried out by the National Center for Seismological Research, found that one house had completely collapsed and another 300 showed some damage. The houses affected were all ones that were not in good condition before the earthquake. Damage was also reported from some schools and daycare centers.[18]

United States[edit]

Tremors were felt throughout southern Florida and several buildings were evacuated, particularly in Miami-Dade County (450 miles away) and the Florida Keys.[19] Several government buildings in Downtown Miami were evacuated, initially on a volunteer basis until a full evacuation was ordered by the local fire department.[20]


  1. ^ a b ANSS. "Cayman Trough 2020 : M 7.7 - 125km NNW of Lucea, Jamaica". Comprehensive Catalog. U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 28 January 2020
  2. ^ "6.1-magnitude tremor follows 7.7-magnitude earthquake between Cuba and Jamaica". Global News. Retrieved 29 January 2020.
  3. ^ Allen, Karma (28 January 2020). "Powerful earthquake strikes between Jamaica and Cuba". ABC. Retrieved 28 January 2020.
  4. ^ Almasy, Steve; Eshchenko (28 January 2020). "Tsunami threat message issued after magnitude 7.7 earthquake off the coast of Jamaica". CNN. Retrieved 28 January 2020.
  5. ^ Dalton, Jane (28 January 2020). "Jamaica earthquake: Huge 7.7-magnitude tremor hits off island's coast". independent.co.uk. Retrieved 28 January 2020.
  6. ^ Rice, Doyle (28 January 2020). "Powerful 7.7 earthquake strikes in Caribbean between Cuba and Jamaica". USA Today. Retrieved 28 January 2020.
  7. ^ Cappucci, Matthew; Samenow, Jason (28 January 2020). "7.7-magnitude earthquake strikes between Jamaica and Cuba, one of the strongest on record in Caribbean". The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 January 2020.
  8. ^ "Caribbean earthquake of 7.7 prompts office evacuations in Miami". BBC News. 28 January 2020. Retrieved 28 January 2020.
  9. ^ DeMets, C.; Wiggins-Grandison W. (2007). "Deformation of Jamaica and motion of the Gonâve microplate from GPS and seismic data" (PDF). Geophysical Journal International. 168 (1): 362–378. Bibcode:2007GeoJI.168..362D. doi:10.1111/j.1365-246X.2006.03236.x. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  10. ^ a b ANSS: Cayman Trough 2020, Finite Fault (as of February 6, 2020)
  11. ^ ANSS. "Cayman Trough 2020b : M 6.1 - 57km SE of East End, Cayman Islands". Comprehensive Catalog. U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 6 February 2020
  12. ^ Mindock, Clark (28 January 2020). "Jamaica earthquake - live updates: Caribbean rocked by huge tremor near Cuba, with buildings evacuated in parts of US". independent.co.uk. Retrieved 28 January 2020.
  13. ^ Steve Almasy; Brandon Miller; Alla Eshchenko. "Magnitude 7.7 earthquake strikes off the coast of Jamaica and is felt as far away as Miami". CNN. Retrieved 28 January 2020.
  14. ^ Cayman Prepared (29 January 2020). "Government Schools Reopen". Cayman Islands National Emergency Website. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  15. ^ "Tsunami warning after Jamaica hit by 7.7 magnitude earthquake - follow live". The Independent. 28 January 2020. Retrieved 28 January 2020.
  16. ^ "7.7 Magnitude Earthquake Off The Shores of Cuba". Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management. 29 January 2020. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  17. ^ Press, The Associated (29 January 2020). "7.7 magnitude earthquake strikes between Cuba and Jamaica". WPBF. Retrieved 29 January 2020.
  18. ^ OnCuba Staff (4 February 2020). "Earthquake-damaged buildings in Cuba were in "poor condition"". On Cuba News. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  19. ^ "Miami Buildings Shake After Powerful Earthquake Between Cuba and Jamaica". NBC 6 South Florida. Retrieved 29 January 2020.
  20. ^ Charles, Jacqueline; Torres, Nora Gámez; Ocasio, Bianca Padró (28 January 2020). "Powerful Caribbean earthquake shakes buildings in Jamaica, Cuba — even downtown Miami". Miami Herald. Retrieved 29 January 2020.