Chanze Dawson was walking to her daughter’s school when her body started swaying left and right. She ran under a doorway. After about a minute passed, she still couldn’t gain her balance and felt dizzy and lightheaded.
The West End, Cayman Brac resident was experiencing her second earthquake. Her first was the one in December 2004.
When the magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck off the shores of the Cayman Islands on Tuesday, many residents of the Sister Islands didn’t know was happening at first. After the shaking stopped, they made their way to shelters or higher ground.
Tate McFarlane, District Administration’s district officer for Little Cayman, said he was in his office in Blossom Village when the earthquake hit.
“The entire building was vibrating non-stop. It was a big hit … we didn’t feel no aftershocks though,” McFarlane said. Afterwards, he was contacted by Hazard Management Cayman Islands about the threat of a tsunami. He said everyone was put on alert and either contacted by telephone or by the police knocking on doors for people to get to higher ground, which on Little Cayman is either a little bluff in the middle of the island or the shelter along Spot Bay Road.
“There was no panicking from locals or visitors, and everything went well,” he said, adding that people stayed in the shelter for about two hours until the all-clear was given. “No one received any injuries, there were no sink holes opening up or structural damages to report,” McFarlane said.
Bracker Barry Morgan said the earthquake felt horrible.
“I see the building moving … the government 25-metre pool spilled about 10,000 gallons of water.
“It looked like an ocean going across the road. I felt earthquakes before but this one [was] scary,” he said.
Over in Watering Place, Channings Connor said that after 2pm he was sharpening his machete when he felt the ground shaking and the vibrations getting stronger every minute. His truck started moving, he was losing his balance. At first, he said, he didn’t know was going on.
“The first thing that came to mind was go get my daughter. It was a frightening experience,” he said.
Pam Andrews, who vacations on Cayman Brac, said she was underwater when the earthquake struck, and it sounded like the biggest boat ever was coming her way. And it kept getting louder and louder.
“It was scary because we had never heard a boat that loud and we just dived deeper; 24 feet of water is not a good depth to avoid that size of a boat,” she said. Andrews said the water got silty. “My ears started hurting and I kept trying to depressure my ears. We dove for another half hour and found out later it was an earthquake,” she said.
Dacia Henriquez, 36, who has lived on Little Cayman since 2011, said she had just arrived at the school to pick up her daughter’s report card when the earthquake struck.
“The building starting shaking. At first, I thought it was from the construction next door until the children started hollering ‘Earthquake’ and dived under the desks. I went under the desks with all the kids too,” Henriquez said.
She said they waited with the four children until the shaking stopped; then the phones started ringing from the Cayman Brac School. They told them to get to the shelter or higher ground.
She was also told to check the shoreline to see if the water was receding and to assist with evacuation if it was happening.
“But where could we go? We were already at the highest point,” she said.
She said people start filling the shelters, some driving, some walking there. Even the tourists that were staying at the resorts went to the shelters, she said. “The tourists were scared because some said they had never experienced an earthquake before,” she said.
Despite the threat of a tsunami, Henriquez said most people were calm and didn’t panic.
Julia Hislop in Stake Bay was taking an afternoon nap on her couch when her husband shouted there was an earthquake.
“The house was swaying, there was a huge roar like thunder, we ran in the garden and the gardener said all the trees were swaying and he was having a hard time standing up. We then realised we were having an earthquake. It was quite scary,” Hislop said.