Barbadians may be surprised to learn that a record 375 earthquakes were recorded in this island’s seismic zone last year.
However, this was revealed today by leading seismologist Dr Joan Latchman of the Trinidad-based University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre (WISRC) during a lecture to mark Earthquake and Tsunamis Smart month.
Warning that the island was not “immune to earthquakes”, Dr Latchman explained that of the 375 tremors, over 170 events were of magnitude 3.6 to 4.0, which was “more than 10 times”, the highest number of 16 earthquakes recorded by the WISRC in 2009.
In such circumstances, Dr Latchman said it was a little difficult to understand why Barbadians continued to think and say that earthquakes did not affect them, pointing out that there were events in the history that had caused significant impact to the island “going all the way back to 1866 and then in 1844.
“So Barbadians could, but they should not consider themselves immune to earthquakes,” Dr Latchman cautioned as she delivered her lecture entitled Earthquakes and Tsunamis in the Caribbean; 50 years verses 500 years at the Barbados Public Workers Credit Union.
The seismologist further warned that the Caribbean was overdue for a major 8.0 earthquake, suggesting that events of this magnitude “tend to occur every 100 or so years”.
She said the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which has been blamed for over 300,000 deaths, should have been enough of a wake up call for the region to “sit up and take stock and say this is serious.
“It is now five years since Haiti and I don’t see the kinds of improvement that we should have seen as a result of Haiti, I don’t understand it,” she lamented.
In Barbados’ case, she noted that the largest earthquake to occur off the island last year was a 6.6 and this was preceded by a 6.3.
“[This] is Barbados’ new normal [so] we are going to continue to see significant magnitude earthquakes associated with this sequence,” the expert said, pointing out that the region has been rocked by magnitude 6.0 quakes every year since 2013.
However, she acknowledged that since the beginning of this year, seismic activity had tapered off somewhat.
She explained that while earthquakes usually occurred in “bursts”, the island was now at the “tail” of a seismic sequence.
“The pattern has been changing and based on our observation, pattern changes, even small pattern changes should not be treated lightly.”
Dr Latchman also cautioned the region not to take the threat of tsunamis lightly, noting that such events usually accompanied high magnitude earthquakes. (FW)