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  • The epicenter of the quake was between Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Cuba, at a shallow depth of 6.2 miles (10 km).

    The epicenter of the quake was between Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Cuba, at a shallow depth of 6.2 miles (10 km). | Photo: USGS

Published 29 January 2020

Several aftershocks followed, including a magnitude 6.1 tremor closer to the Cayman Islands, unnerving people for hours afterward.

Shaken Caribbean residents and tourists said on Wednesday that life was returning to normal after a powerful earthquake struck the region and rattled nerves but spared the area from severe damage to property or loss of life.

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The magnitude 7.7 quake hit Tuesday afternoon in the Caribbean Sea between Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cuba, bursting drains and ripping open sinkholes.

"Our nerves are on edge not knowing if we're going to be safe or not," said Canadian tourist Andrew Walsh, 43, on a visit to Jamaica's Montego Bay with his family. "It is still causing us some anxiety."

In the Cayman Islands, home to about 62,000 people, many schools remained closed, but most businesses were open, according to Sandra Hill, editor with Cayman Marl Road, a local news website.

"We are still feeling aftershocks. There are a lot of sinkholes," said Hill, 46. But she added that "generally speaking there is a sense of normalcy today."

The quake was felt in Miami as well, where several high-rise buildings evacuated downtown.

Attorney Jake Greenberg, 33, based on the 24th floor of a Miami skyscraper, said he was not worried about returning to the office. But the tremors triggered memories of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when he was living near New York City.

"It's not something you forget," he said of the attacks. "Everyone thought (yesterday's earthquake) was nothing, you didn't feel anything, but still, there was a moment that made me think of what could've happened."

In Cuba, the quake hit many provinces. The government stated there was no damage nor injuries after thousands of people evacuated from buildings.

In eastern Cuba, nearest to the quake and where minor tremors are frequent, residents spent Wednesday morning comparing tales of being spooked by shaking beds, sofas, lamps and balconies before evacuating to the streets.

"Oh yes, we felt it all right and for quite some time," said hairdresser Nuris Lopez in Cuba's eastern Granma province.

"The pigs and chickens got really nervous," she added, laughing.

Walsh, a Canadian tourist in Jamaica, said he remains alert to more aftershocks or the possibility of a tsunami.

"This (earthquake) definitely has us on standby here," he said. "If there is a tsunami, there are lots of hills."

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