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St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Following more than 120 felt reports of an April 17 earthquake with a magnitude of 5.8, the Port of Spain-based Seismic Research Unit is explaining why that sort of activity is expected and can be considered normal.

Monday’s quake was located north-east of Antigua/south-east of Barbuda and felt from as far west as St. Kitts and as far south as Guadeloupe.

It was reportedly followed by more than 500 events in the same general area.

Two of them were said to be in the magnitude range 5.1-5.5. 

The Seismic Unit Scientists expect that aftershocks should continue for some time.

Dr Richard Robertson is head of the Port of Spain-based Unit.

“Well, seismic activity in that part of the region one can say is normal in the fact that, that particular part of the region, the Leeward islands is an area which is one of the most seismically active part of the region. So we do have and we do expect to have earthquakes from time to time in the area that consists of Antigua & Barbuda, St Kitts-Nevis, Montserrat and the northern Leeward Islands area.”

The 5.8 size of the earthquake has caused worry in some circles.

However Dr Richardson says the important thing is for people the people of the region to remain prepared.

“Well it’s not as huge as you can get, but I think what it should tell them is that, and which is what we’ve constantly said, if you live in an area like that you really need to take seismic safety and ensure that you are able to withstand the impact of a potentially large event seriously. So you need to be aware of the fact that you can have a large magnitude earthquake and that really the thing that causes a lot of damage from earthquakes, is structures not the event itself. So buildings kill people and structures that we put up as human beings, is what cause harm. So you need to make sure that the structures are constructed in a way that would enable them to withstand the ground shaking. So people don’t need to be alarmed, it’s a process just like how we have storms and hurricanes. What we need to do is to take these events as a reminder that in case you didn’t know, you do live in area that can have events like this and bigger, that could cause harm and you need to take them seriously. Alarm to me means you won’t take action, alarm suggests that you become paralyzed and panic.”

The Seismic Research Unit boss is giving assurances that St Kitts and Nevis is fully covered by the Unit’s monitoring process. 

“Well we provide a service for the island government and people so for St Kitts and Nevis for example we provide a service both for earthquakes and as well as the volcano. So we have instruments out on the land called seis-monitors that essentially detect any kind of shaking of the ground. We have specialists who study them to detect when the ground shakes and the instruments respond. We could detect what kind of response and what kind of event it is. Whether it’s an earthquake related to the movement of the plates or whether it is an earthquake associated with the volcano trying to get stuff up to the surface.”

Dr Richard Robertson of the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Unit in Port of Spain.



Ken Richards
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