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Barbados ‘not quake safe’


Barbados ‘not quake safe’

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DIRECTOR OF the Seismic Research Unit of the University of the West Indies, Dr Joan Latchman, said Tuesday’s 6.4 magnitude earthquake was the “biggest” to occur in the Barbados zone since 1980 and warned regional countries to be prepared for a massive quake in the future.

She also cautioned Barbadians against thinking an earthquake could not hit the island, contrary to what Andre Brathwaite, a former geologist with the Barbados Government, stated in yesterday’s MIDWEEK NATION.

Brathwaite had said that while the island would experience tremors and aftershocks, it was unlikely it would experience the full effects of an earthquake. He argued that “our tectonic location does not position us in any way for Barbados to get any devastating earthquake situation . . . . Our positioning does not allow us to receive any adverse effects from any earthquake-type events”.

However, Latchman told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) yesterday that while earthquakes in the Barbados zone were “a little different from what we would have along the islands of the Eastern Caribbean where the earthquakes occur in a denser pattern . . . we would expect to see on average, every year, an earthquake in the magnitude 4.1 to 4.5 range and five of them in the 3.6 to 4.0 range”.

She said most of these earthquakes occurred very close to Barbados.

“So Barbadians should not have a complacency that earthquakes in the Eastern Caribbean do not affect them. An earthquake along the arc just needs to be large enough. “In 2007 most Barbadians would have felt the earthquake that was located north of Martinique at a magnitude 7.3 and caused damaged in Barbados,” she said, noting that in 1953 the earthquake that occurred northwest of St Lucia also caused damage in Barbados.

“So Barbados has had impact from earthquakes in the past and I am convinced that Barbados will have impact from earthquakes in the future.”

Of Tuesday’s quake she said: “This would be an earthquake we don’t expect to see for tens of years . . . . In my analysis this would be the first earthquake in this magnitude range since we have been recording about 1980,” she said of the quake that was felt in Barbados, Martinique, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The seismologist said it was also a reminder that the Caribbean should not be complacent.

“This earthquake is reminding us that the processes which generate these large earthquakes are alive and well. They are continuing. And therefore we need to be prepared.” She said that since the start of the year, the region has recorded an increase in seismic activity.