Earthquakes and Tsunamis No Stranger To Barbados

BGIS Media Release

by Julia Rawlins-Bentham

Barbados is no stranger to earthquakes and tsunamis, and citizens are being urged to dispel the notion that they will not be impacted, and become prepared.

Director of the University of the West Indies’ Seismic Research Centre, Dr. Joan Latchman, is also warning that the region does have the capacity to generate big devastating events, as has happened in the past.

Speaking during a Tsunami Smart Teacher Training seminar at the Barbados Community College today, Dr. Latchman said over 500 earthquakes occurred within the Barbados seismic zone annually, with at least one occurring monthly in Barbados. “The perception that Barbados cannot be affected by earthquakes is wrong. Barbados is having earthquakes; there were earthquakes of a magnitude of five in 1981, 1984, and 1987 along Barbados; [and] the most recent one of a 6.4 magnitude near Martinique was felt here,” she stated.

She warned that earthquakes did not have to occur in Barbados to result in damage to the island. “It just has to be big enough,” she said, making reference to an earthquake in 1953 off Barbados which caused significant damage in Bridgetown. Dr. Latchman said the 2007 earth tremor in Barbados saw reports of cracks in sidewalks and tiles falling from buildings. That, she said, showed that there can be infrastructural damage from the shaking.

Similarly, she reminded Barbadians that the island was impacted by the 1755 Great Lisbon earthquake which resulted in a tsunami, and there was every possibility that the island could be impacted again in the future. She stressed that everyone in Barbados needed to know, be aware, and be prepared for any eventuality because earthquakes and tsunamis were unpredictable hazards for which there is little or no prior warning.

“Barbados is not a stranger to these kinds of impacts. If they happened in the past, know they can happen in the future. If we have a small earthquake, one day, there will be a big earthquake; if you see small tsunamis, one day you will get a big one,” she said. Dr. Latchman advised policy makers not to ignore the fact that earthquakes and tsunamis were a part of the Barbadian reality and should therefore be factored into the country’s development plans.

The Director stressed that planners and stakeholders also needed to come together and decide on the appropriate response towards the hazards, as the measures to be taken depended heavily on what the priorities were for those involved.

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