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Jamaica shares the same fault line (a crack or break in the earth’s surface) with Haiti, which suffered a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake on January 11.
This was disclosed by the Head of the Earthquake Unit of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr. Lyndon Brown, at a JIS Think Tank in Kingston on January 20.
“The fault that created the quake in Haiti runs right across the western end of the Dominican Republic, through Haiti, cuts across the Caribbean Sea into Jamaica and continues more or less into different fault lines across Jamaica: one continuous fault line runs across from Haiti to Jamaica,” Dr. Brown stated.
He added that the activities in the region, following the Haiti earthquake, are not unusual, at this time.
“A number of aftershocks have taken place, and this is quite natural. The aftershocks will be more continuous after the large earthquake, but then this will die down and become less frequent,” he said. Aftershocks, such as the magnitude 6.1 tremor that occurred in Haiti again on the Wednesday morning (January 20), can be large but will become less frequent over time.
He said, however, that the other earthquakes that have taken place in Guatemala, Venezuela, and El Salvador are happening on the Pacific Plate fault line, which is not the same one on which Haiti and Jamaica is located.
“Right now we do not see the association between the events,” he added.
He said that while studies are being done by an American researcher, to see the relationships between the fault lines, none has so far been established, and what is happening is that stresses are being naturally released along respective fault lines.
“Earthquakes are very, very, common. If you look at a map of Jamaica you will see that last year we had about eight felt events (earthquakes) and about 200 that were weak but could just be picked up as earthquakes,” he said.
He stated that, on average, there have been about16 earthquakes on an annual basis that are greater that magnitude 7.0 , about 120 around magnitude 6.0 and an innumerable amount at magnitude 5.0 and below.”What is happening in the region is very interesting. Earthquakes are natural events that happen when stresses that have built up along fault lines are released, creating elastic waves that generate convolutions on the face of the earth,” Dr. Brown said.
He added that the destruction wrought by an earthquake is dependent on the location and strength of a building, as well as the strength of the earthquake.

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