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Earthquakes Shake the Caribbean

By: Brianna Lopez

On Jan. 28, the Caribbean suffered a 7.7 magnitude earthquake. It struck 86 miles northwest of Montego Bay, and 87 miles southwest of Niquero, Cuba. Tremors were felt as far as downtown Miami and led to several building evacuations there.

According to CNN, a tsunami warning was issued shortly thereafter by the U.S. National Weather Service’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. There was a threat of tsunami waves reaching about one to three feet above tide level for the coast of many countries in the Caribbean Sea. Time Magazine reports that there were no grave injuries or damages.

Four weeks prior, Puerto Rico was struck by multiple earthquakes. It started on Dec. 28 with a magnitude 4.7 earthquake which was followed by a magnitude 5.0 earthquake on Dec. 29.

A 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit Puerto Rico on Jan. 6. The largest earthquake hit on Jan. 7 with a magnitude of 6.4. Smaller earthquakes followed just minutes after. Finally, the last two earthquakes hit the island on Jan. 8 and Jan. 11, with magnitudes of 5.8 and 5.9 respectively.

Puerto Rico was devastated by these earthquakes and a few in the Barry community were there when the earthquakes occurred. One of these students is sophomore Aliana Bennazar, a sports and exercise science major, who was in a 12-floor building when the first earthquake struck.

“It felt like the building was going to fall over,” said Bennazar. “I had never experienced something so horrible.”

Traumatized after the first earthquake, Bennazar and her father thought it best to relocate to her grandmother’s house—a smaller, two-story building. That’s when the other earthquakes hit.

Bennazar and her grandmother lost power when the earthquake knocked it out on the island. She wasn’t surprised.

“The power service on the island is not great and is not stable,” Bennazar said. “After that, we lost water.”

At that point, Bennazar and her grandmother went to another relative’s house where there was a generator. Despite feeling safer there, Bennazar explains that it was a scary situation.

“We would place a cup of water on the table, and if we felt like [the house] was moving, we would look at the water to confirm if it really was,” she said.

Still, Bennazar and her family were confused as to why the earthquakes were coming so frequently.

According to Pix 11 News expert Troy Morgan who has a doctoral degree in civil environmental engineering, when an earthquake occurs, two tectonic plates meet one another, slide, and the energy released from this collision causes the ground to shake. In Puerto Rico’s case, the North American plate and the Caribbean plate were the source of the earthquakes.

Moreover, Morgan mentions that concrete is usually reinforced with steel. This helps the concrete to bend and absorb energy during an earthquake. However, for Caribbean countries like Jamaica and Puerto Rico, the concrete could not hold the tremors, and this proved devastating.

This natural disaster is practically on the heels of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in Sept. 2017. It was the worst hurricane to hit the island in over 80 years. Residents are still recovering today.

In response, Barry’s School of Social Work collaborated with the Puerto Rico Committee Fund, helping to collect donated toiletries, package, and ship them to Puerto Rico.

And, Barry is still devoted to helping Puerto Rico recover after the earthquakes. Barry’s campus ministry organized a supply drive for a three-week period from Jan. 21 to Feb. 5. These supplies were dropped off in the Cor Jesu Chapel, and will likely go a long way in helping Puerto Rico residents get back on their feet.

On behalf of the community affected, Bennazar sends her thanks to anyone offering their support.

“If it wasn’t for everyone coming together, there wouldn’t be as much relief as there is now,” she said.

If you wish to further support the countries affected by these earthquakes, make sure to donate to organizations like the Hispanic Federation, Direct Relief, World Central Kitchen, and American Red Cross. Visit their websites for more information on their relief drives.

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