Sat | Nov 17, 2018

Number of Felt Earthquakes on the Decline, Geologists Says Major Earthquake Still Possible

Published:Thursday | January 7, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer Karleen Black, scientific officer in the Earthquake Unit speaks to Noel Arscott (second right) Minister of Local Government and Community Development; Argentina ambassador Ariel Fernandez (right) who partnered with Jamaica to create a national volunteers' programme and Major Clive Davis (left) director general Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) at a press launch of Earthquake Awareness Month at the ODPEM on Haining road on Tuesday.
Sections of the United Methodist Church at Gordon Town reduced to rubble during the 1907 Earthquake.

Data from the Earthquake Unit, located at the University of the West Indies (UWI), indicates that last year Jamaica recorded up to 80 earthquakes which occurred across the island or just off shore.

Karleen Black, scientific officer with the Earthquake Unit has said, however, that only one felt earthquake was reported last year.

?Having a relatively quiet period, we only had one felt earthquake last year, is not anything to be relieved about because we could have a big earthquake this year. What we need to understand as a country is that we are living in an earthquake zone, a lot of the fault lines pass through Jamaica,? she told The Gleaner.

Professor Simon Mitchell of the Department of Geography and Geology has argued that Jamaica should expect a big earthquake at anytime given the increase in seismic activity and build up of stress at the fault lines which run through the island.

?The stresses are always building up across Jamaica so it only requires one of the faults to move and we will have an earthquake,? the geologist said.

According to Mitchell, the fact that the number of felt earthquakes has gone down is a cause for concern.

?The number of felt earthquakes have decreased and that suggests that the stress is building up and that is a concern,? he added

In 2003 the earthquake unit received reports of six felt earthquakes. In 2004 and 2005, that figure increased to 11 for both years. In 2006 the number of felt earthquakes fell to eight and was reduced to four in 2007 based on the latest data available on the earthquake unit?s website.


Mitchell also raised concern that Jamaica?s systems will never be strong enough to withstand a major earthquake but noted that studies have been done to look at vulnerabilities with the aim of designing mitigation strategies.

The geologist called for greater vigilance and awareness to counteract a level of complacency that is associated with the fact that Jamaica has not had a major earthquake in recent times.

?It?s always one of the worries you have that there are always people growing up who never actually experienced an earthquake ... and the Haiti earthquake has been a few years so these sort of things slowly move out of people?s worry and concern and this is why earthquake awareness month is an extremely important time,? he said.