Strong quake hits French island of Martinique
30 November 2007
FORT DE FRANCE – A strong earthquake measuring 7.4 magnitude, according to the US Geological Survey, struck near the French Caribbean island of Martinique Thursday, causing at least one death.
An Englishman died after suffering a heart attack, the civil security officials in Martinique said.
Earlier, the emergency services reported that two people had been seriously injured in the Lorrain district of the island.
They had injured themselves because they had thrown themselves out of windows during the quake, said France’s overseas minister Christian Estrosi from Paris.
Estrosi told French television that about one hundred people had required medical treatment on Martinique.
Police helicopters were flying over Martinique searching for casualties, he added.
On nearby Guadaloupe there had been no reports of casualties, he said.
Buildings collapsed on Martinique and nearby Barbados and about a third of Martinique was without electricity, local officials said.
“For the moment, a building and a bank have collapsed,” a Martinique police source told AFP.
On the nearby island of Barbados, several buildings were also destroyed in the capital Bridgetown and the chief of emergency services was hurt during a rescue attempt, local police said.
It struck at a depth of 143 kilometres (90 miles) and was centered 41 kilometres (25 miles) north-northwest of Martinique’s capital Fort-de-France, the USGS said, updating its earlier estimate of 7.3 magnitude.
The deep centre of the quake meant there was no threat of a destructive tsunami, according to the US-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
There was no report of casualties in the nearby French Caribbean island of Guadaloupe, said Estrosi. Fires, however, had been reported in Guadeloupe’s main city of Pointe-a-Pitre, according to information from police in Paris.
In Paris, French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie summoned an emergency meeting to deal with the crisis.
In Fort de France, people took shelter under tables, while others rushed for the open, following emergency procedures in the event of an earthquake, an AFP reporter noted. Public building were also evacuated.
There were similar scenes in Barbados, an AFP reporter noted: tremors sent people running out of buildings into the street in Bridgetown and several homes were destroyed.
The tremors were also felt in another French Caribbean island, Guadeloupe, and to a lesser extent in French Guiana, the source said.
It was felt in Venezuela, including the capital Caracas, but no damage or victims were reported.
USGS geophysicist Stuart Sipkin said large earthquakes in the Caribbean were uncommon but not unheard of.
“Earthquakes of this magnitude aren’t nearly as common (in the Caribbean) as they are in the Pacific Rim,” Sipkin told AFP from Colorado.
“They’ve occurred in the past, and there have even been tsunami-producing earthquakes in the Caribbean. There just hasn’t been one for quite a while.”
Sipkin said the depth of the earthquake made damage and casualties less likely. “But things that happen when you get deeper earthquakes is that even though the shaking at the surface is not as strong, it’s felt over a wider area.”
As well as the USGS, several observatories in Martinique and in mainland France also registered the quake at levels of between 6.8 and 7.3.
Subject: French news