A 5.6 magnitude earthquake shook Jamaica on Monday, October 30, 2023, causing minor damage to infrastructure and sending over 30 students to hospitals with anxiety and panic attacks.
The earthquake struck at approximately 1:40 p.m. local time, with its epicenter located about 10 kilometers south of Buff Bay, Portland, at a depth of 18 kilometers. The tremor was felt across the island, with reports of shaking coming from as far as Kingston and Montego Bay.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness said in a video presentation that an initial assessment indicated that the damage was not significant, but that the government was taking all precautions and that all necessary protocols had been activated.
“Generally, what we have seen is that the damage that has been assessed is not significant,” Holness said. “We have experienced some break in electricity and communication. But the report, so far, is that most have been restored. Our airports are open, and we have not received any reports of death. So, we give God thanks for sparing us the worst. But, nevertheless, we are taking all precautions.”
Dr. Christopher Tufton, Jamaica’s minister of health and wellness, confirmed during a press conference on Monday afternoon that over 30 students had to be taken to hospitals following the earthquake. He said that most of the children suffered from anxiety or panic attacks, but that there were a few cases of minor injuries.
“There were 14 children seen at the accident and emergency department at the Spanish Town Hospital with episodes of anxiety,” Tufton said. “They were clinically stable, reassured and sent home. Two patients were seen at the Linstead Hospital in relation to the quake.”
Tufton also said that a few health facilities had sustained minor damage in the earthquake, but that operations had not been affected.
“In St Catherine, there were a few incidents; an autoclave fell at the Greater Portmore Health Centre and was damaged, there was structural damage at the Waterford and Old Harbour health canters, which require some assessment, and there were minor cracks at the Spanish Town Hospital, but operations were not affected,” he said.
Tufton urged people experiencing anxiety or stress following the earthquake to consult a doctor, but cautioned that accident and emergency wards were mostly full because of other issues.
Impact on schools after Jamaica earthquake
The earthquake had a significant impact on schools across Jamaica. Many schools were evacuated as a precaution, and some remained closed on Tuesday to allow for damage assessments.
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information said in a statement that it was working with school administrators to ensure that all schools were safe for students and teachers to return to.
Impact on infrastructure
The earthquake also caused minor damage to infrastructure across Jamaica. There were reports of cracked roads and buildings, as well as downed power lines.
The National Works Agency (NWA) said in a statement that it was working to assess the damage and repair any infrastructure that had been damaged.
The Jamaica earthquake was a reminder of the island’s vulnerability to natural disasters. However, the government’s response to the earthquake was swift and effective, and the damage was relatively minor.
The earthquake also highlighted the importance of preparedness. Schools and businesses should have earthquake plans in place, and individuals should know what to do in the event of an earthquake.