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‘Did the plane hit it?’ Major quake hits Miami, Caribbean, minor damage

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KINGSTON (Reuters) – A massive earthquake rocked southern Cuba on Tuesday, sending shockwaves as far as Miami and sparking panic in the Cayman Islands, creating sinkholes but causing no serious damage to people or property, preliminary reports said.

The 7.7-magnitude quake struck off the coast of Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cuba at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). The main shock was followed by several aftershocks, including a magnitude 6.1 nearer the Cayman Islands.

Cindi Welcome, 27, a trainee travel agent in George Town, Cayman’s capital, said she first thought her blood pressure had risen when the quake struck. Then she screamed.

“The building shook like paper,” she said. “The panic is real. It’s the worst feeling we’ve ever had.”

Jewel Hydes, a 44-year-old risk manager on the island, said residents reported that sewers had been blown open and sinkholes had appeared, including one that swallowed half a car.

“It’s really, really scary. Everyone on the island is still in shock,” Hydes said. “We’re constantly seeing large numbers of people praying and running out of buildings because they’re shaking.”

In Miami, Florida, several downtown buildings were evacuated as office workers flocked to safety outside.

In his 29th-floor office, Miami personal injury attorney Eli Stiers suddenly felt sick.

“I was like: ‘Did I eat some bad sushi?'” he said. Then he noticed the office door swinging back and forth. “We were like, did the plane hit the building? A sinkhole opened up? And then we suddenly realized it was an earthquake. You wouldn’t expect something like this to happen in Miami.”

The Miami-Dade Fire Department received multiple calls about shaking high-rise buildings. The department said it had received no reports of injuries or structural damage.

Despite the intensity of the earthquake, this message was repeated to varying degrees across the region.

Angie Watler, a police spokesman on Cayman Brac, the nearest island to the epicenter, said the public had reported some damage to buildings and swimming pools at the Caribbean Sands resort in the south of the island.

Video from Jamaica and the Cayman Islands showed water flowing from pools during the quake.

Watler said there were no reports of injuries, but authorities were still checking.

The International Tsunami Information Center stated that the tsunami threat has basically passed. Small fluctuations of up to a foot (30 centimeters) are still possible, the report said.

The quake was also felt in several Cuban provinces, the government said. However, the effects were not felt strongly in the capital, Havana, according to Reuters witnesses.

Don Blackman, a geophysicist at the National Earthquake Information Center, said the impact of the quake is difficult to predict, but the quake at sea seemed to help.

“The good news is, it did go out to sea,” Blackman said by phone. “It would have been very different in Kingston.”

Reporting by Dave Graham, Stefanie Eschenbacher and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City, Kate Chappell in Kingston, Zachary Fagenson in Miami and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Sandra Maler in Washington, Marc Frank ) in Havana and Sarah Marsh in Port-au-Prince; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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