Guyanese yesterday panicked after a tremor from a 7.3 magnitude earthquake in neighbouring Venezuela caused the earth to shake and buildings to sway.
Up to press time there were no reports of serious property damage or injury to persons here but citizens have sought to blame the event on everything from unholy living to ExxonMobil’s drilling to a failure by Government to adequately pay teachers. In Georgetown, the tremor was experienced at around 5.31 pm.
“I was sitting at my desk and felt the building shaking. My friend asked me if I felt something strange and said we should probably leave but there was no probably, I was already out the door,” a member of the Teleperformance staff on Camp and Robb streets told Stabroek News.
He along with his colleagues had rushed out of the five-storied building in a tide of bodies which covered the intersection of Robb and Camp streets bringing traffic to a standstill.
Once outside they along with other workers in the area gazed in horrified fascination as the building, surrounding light posts, vehicles and even the water in the drain swayed like the leaves of a coconut tree in a tropical breeze.
Several workers concerned about family members called home only to hear that the tremor was being felt all across the country.
In fact, Head of the Civil Defence Commission, Kester Craig told Stabroek News that there have been reports that the tremor was felt all along Guyana’s coast from Region 1 to Region 6.
“We have received no reports of property damage or injury,” he said adding that checks had been made in the North-West area of Region 1 Barima/Waini which is closest to the epicentre.
Stabroek News reached out to Region One Chairman Brentnol Ashley who noted that though there were rumours of damage to property checks have so far not found evidence of this.
However shop proprietor Perry Wong, whose establishment is located at Kumaka Water front in Mabaruma, told this newspaper that several bottles of alcohol and perfume as well as two flat-screen televisions were damaged after they fell from the shelves on which they were being displayed.
In Region 6 just as in Georgetown persons immediately rushed onto the streets as they began to feel the tremor. Experts have warned that this is the least desirable reaction to a seismic activity as persons are most often injured by falling debris when trying to get from one place to another.
“Do not try to move instead seek a steady desk or corner and stay under there,” Director of the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre, Richard Robertson advised in a Facebook post following the event.
Robertson and Seismologist Dr. Joan Latchman explained during the five-minute broadcast that aftershocks from such an event can be felt as much as two years into the future so it is essential that persons are cautious and take the time to inspect buildings for damage which may have been resulted.
Craig reiterated this advice. He noted that in Guyana the building codes will be different and we may not have had as severe an event but the impact can still be devastating.
“Inspect homes and other buildings for cracks and [other] damage. If the building appears unsafe get everyone out and if you think that buildings and other infrastructure were under severe stress because of the tremor, out of precaution, it would be wise to have a structural assessment conducted,” Craig noted.
In East Canje Berbice the tremor which lasted for almost four minutes caused residents to call on their neighbours in an attempt to understand what was happening.
One woman noted, that she first noticed her windows shaking after which she saw her television starting to shake, she then immediately ran outside where she saw her neighbours already on their bridges as well.
Another resident said she was in the upper flat of her house when she felt her house moving.
‘Is like someone holding the house and shaking it, so me feel”, the young woman said while another resident reported that the tremor caused her television set to fall.
A resident of Canefield Village, East Canje Berbice pointed out to this publication that during the tremor his car which was parked was moving. He said, “It look like the car dancing”.
A farmer from Fyrish Village, Corentyne relayed, “I been stand in the (backlands) and me feel a slight thing”.
A teenager from Number 35 Village said, “It was shaking so much I though I would a get black out and I run outside”.
Residents of the Upper Corentyne Area told Stabroek News, that the tremor lasted over one minute in their area. One man from Skeldon said, he was sitting when he realized that his benches were shaking. “I get up and call me family outside cause them went inside”, he said. “In my life that was the first time I feel something like this for so long”, he noted yesterday.
Those in New Amsterdam report experiencing the tremor for some five minutes with workers in the township taking to the streets once they felt the tremor.
According to the United States Geological Survey at about 5.31pm a 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck off the country’s northern coast, east of the city of Carúpano at a depth of 123km (76 miles). The seismic activity was also felt in Trinidad and Tobago where it registered as 6.9 on the Richter scale.
The effects were felt across several Caribbean islands including St Vincent, St Lucia, Grenada and Barbados as well as in Suriname, Brazil and Colombia.