Nov. 29, 2007 A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4 on the Richter scale hit Martinique at 3 p.m. Thursday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Residents of the capital, Fort-de-France, were sent scurrying into the streets. But Bernard Cavignaux, assistant director general of Martinique's central university hospital, told the Reuters news agency "there were neither deaths nor serious damage."
The USGS reported that the quake was centered some 14 miles northwest of Martinique at a depth of about 90 miles. A tsunami warning was not issued for the region because the quake was so deep.
"This deep, they arent capable of generating a tsunami," said John Bellini, a seismologist at the USGS National Earthquake Information Center.
The quake lasted 20 seconds, but the shaking in the Virgin Islands was felt a good deal longer.
"I said 'what in the world is happening,'" said Joyce Cline, a resident of Coral Bay, St. John.
She said she could feel the mahogany doors "flexing," so she and her husband went outside.
Bellini said that the earthquake lasted so long in the Virgin Islands because of the territory's distance from the epicenter.
"The farther away from the epicenter, the waves spread out," he said.
Muriel Wiltord, director of the Martinique Bureau in New York, said two buildings collapsed in Fort de France, the island's capital.
She said one-third of the island has no electricity and there were widespread phone outages, but as of 6 p.m., phone service was beginning to return.
"It's not as bad as we had thought," she said.
Jose Velez at the Puerto Rico Seismic Network said the agency has received no reports of any kind from Martinique.
But he said the agency did hear from St. Kitts, Nevis and St. Lucia. He said residents on those islands said they had no damage.
Bruce Presgrave, a seismologist at the NEIC, said the earthquake was felt as far away as Guyana and Surinam.
Jacqueline Heyliger, who is acting as V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency director, said a resident reported feeling the earthquake in St. Croix's Five Corners area.
Heyliger said that it was not a matter of if, but when an earthquake would hit the Virgin Islands. She pointed out that the territory was hit with a disastrous earthquake and tsunami on Nov. 18, 1867.
She said that when an earthquake hits residents should remember to "drop, cover and hold."
"Under a table, a desk, a chair, anything. You want to cover your head," she said.
She said if there's nothing to take shelter under, bend over and cover your head.
Heyliger said people in wheelchairs should lock their wheels and cover their heads.
"If you're driving, pull over to the side of the road, but try not to get next to an electrical pole," she said.
She advised residents along the shore to immediately seek higher ground if they feel a quake, in case a tsunami does occur.
"A tsunami can occur within five to 10 minutes of feeling a quake," she said.
Heyliger said that VITEMA is working on a program to install tsunami warning signs in the Strand Street area of Frederiksted, St. Croix, near Brewers Bay St. Thomas and in Coral Bay, St. John.
She said VITEMA has a $160,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to fund the project as part of the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program.
She said other communities across the territory will be included in subsequent phases of the program. Heyliger said she's received no reports of damage across the territory.
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