Last updated: 10 January 2018, 12.45 pm
A 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck the Caribbean Seas overnight, leading to fears of a natural disaster.
This was one of the largest to be recoded in Caribbean history, stronger than the 2010 quake that devastated Haiti and killed more than 200,000, which was measured at 7.0 magnitude.
It struck last night at 10.51pm AST, just 25 miles from the coast of Honduras’ Great Swan Island. The depth was reported as 6.2 miles, which is relatively shallow.
A tsunami warning was issued for nearby islands, including Jamaica, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico.
According to the National Tsunami Warning Center (NTWC), hazardous tsunami waves are possible within 621 miles (1,000 km) of the quake’s epicenter.
The NTWC also advised of smaller changes in sea levels are possible for other areas in the Caribbean, and advised those living near the coast to seek higher ground immediately.
But by 12.48am AST the warnings had been removed throughout the Caribbean and Central America.
“We have reports that it was felt in the majority of the country, but we don’t have reports of damage,” said Lizandro Rosales, director of Honduras’ contingencies commission.
Emergency situation averted
WIC News understands that since the original tremors, at least two aftershocks of more than 4.3 magnitude have been felt within 30 miles of the epicentre.
As news spread of the possibility of a tsunami, nations in the region put their safety plans into action.
What appears to be the periodic wail of a tsunami warning system was heard throughout a 10-minute a video posted to Facebook by Edison Usher.
In the clip, Usher says he was standing near a taxi stand less than 200 metres from the shore in Belize City.
CNN reports that other residents of the Belizian city were evacuating to inland areas in case the tsunami hit.
Officials in Honduras said shaking was registered across much of the nation and there were some reports of cracks in homes in Colon and Atlantida provinces along the northern coast and Olancho in eastern Honduras.
The northern coast of Honduras, closest to the quake’s epicentre, is sparsely populated, with much of it covered by nature reserves.
Juan Jose Reyes, director of Early Warning Systems of the Honduran disaster prevention agency COPECO, had urged people from low-lying coastal areas, especially the small offshore Islas de la Bahía islands to seek refuge, particularly if the tide suddenly is drawn out – a telltale sign that a tsunami is imminent.
“If you notice that the (sea) disappears, you have to go to (a) high place,” he said at a briefing with reporters in the capital Tegucigalpa.
“Pay attention to the alerts, to the authorities.”
The quake was also felt in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, north of Honduras, according to Mexico’s civil protection director.
The Caribbean is still recovering from the devastating hurricane that struck in September last year.
In the east of the region, which bore the brunt of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Barbuda is still essentially unpopulated and 90% of people in Dominica remain without power.