Caribbean urged to be prepared for larger seismic events

Report
from Government of Saint Lucia
Published on 10 Jan 2019 View Original

SEISMIC HAZARDS EXIST IN THE CARIBBEAN BECAUSE OF ITS PLACEMENT BETWEEN THE NORTH AMERICAN AND SOUTH AMERICAN PLATES.

Seismologists have predicted that the Caribbean region needs to prepare for a much larger incident, following recordings of a burst of 54 small earthquakes near the north of St. Kitts in early December.

Dr. Joan Latchman from the University of the West Indies Seismic Researh Centre (UWI-SRC), said that while no one reported feeling the earthquakes, they should be taken as a warning about the lack of earthquake preparedness in the region.

“The occurrence of small [incidents] would remind us that we have a seismic hazard, and seismic hazards should be treated with great respect,” said Latchman, adding that the region has had a history of devastating earthquakes including one of an estimated magnitude of between 8.1 to 8.5 that struck between Antigua and Guadeloupe in 1843. Another quake of an estimated magnitude of 7.5 to 7.9 struck west of Trinidad in 1766.

“The goal is for us to recognize that we have this seismic hazard in the Eastern Caribbean region because of our place in the North American and South American plates, where it is converging,” said Dr. Latchman. She explained that while the convergence is happening extremely slowly, “it should not make us complacent and treat the hazard as one that is not real and not serious.”

Dr. Latchman advised that governments should take earthquake preparation into consideration when it makes public policy, such as infrastructure construction, medical and equipment preparation, and building code enforcement. She said policy makers in the region could take their cues from counterparts in California and Japan, who in the aftermath of serious earthquakes made plans for the future to soften the impact of future quakes.

“We should not wait to be devastated to learn, we can learn from those who have had that experience and the measures they have implemented and found useful,” she said.