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Powerful earthquake triggers tsunami warning off Jamaican coast

A powerful 7.7-magnitude earthquake in the sea between Jamaica and Cuba triggered a tsunami warning for parts of the Caribbean.

The powerful tremor struck 72 miles (117 km) northwest of the coastal town of Lucea at a relatively shallow depth of around six miles (10 km), the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The International Tsunami Information Center warned that “hazardous tsunami waves” could occur “within 186 miles (300 km) of the epicenter along the coasts of Jamaica… Cayman Islands and Cuba.”

It said waves of up to three feet (1m) could also land on the coasts of Mexico, Belize and Honduras, before announcing the tsunami warning had passed around 90 minutes later.

“The tsunami threat has now largely passed,” the centre said.

The quake was centred in the sea, 86 miles (139 km) northwest of Montego Bay and around the same distance from Niquero, Cuba.

It hit at 2.10pm local time (7.10pm GMT) and was initially measured at 7.3 magnitude before being upgraded.

Buildings shook in Miami while several South Florida buildings were evacuated as a precaution, city officials said.

No injuries or road closures have been reported.

The quake was felt in several provinces of Cuba, the island’s government said, but it was not strongly felt in the capital of Havana.

Officials said there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The quake could be felt strongly in Santiago, according to Belkis Guerrero, who works in the centre of the southeastern city.

“We were all sitting and we felt the chairs move. We heard the noise of everything moving around. It felt very strong but it doesn’t look like anything happened,” she told The Associated Press.

An aftershock measured at 6.5-magnitude was felt in in the Cayman Islands, the USGS said, but there were no reports of deaths, injuries or damage to buildings, a spokeswoman for the territory’s Disaster Management Agency said.

But there were reports of sinkholes appearing, the agency added, as it urged people to “evacuate vertically” in strong multi-storey buildings.

People did report some damage to buildings and to a swimming pool at a resort in the south of the island, Angie Watler, a spokeswoman for police on Cayman Brac, the island nearest the epicenter of the quake, said.

Videos on social media, apparently from Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, showed water sloshing out of pools during the quake.

Ms Watler said there were no reports so far of injuries but that authorities were still making checks on the area.

Dr Stenette Davis, said she had seen manhole covers blown off by the force of the quake, and sewage exploding into the street, but no more serious damage.

There are so few earthquakes on the Cayman Islands, staff in the Cayman Compass newspaper were puzzled when it hit, editor-in-chief Kevin Morales said.

“It was just like a big dump truck was rolling past. Then it continued and got more intense.”