PRIME Minister Hubert Minnis. (File photo)
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said yesterday it might be necessary for the country’s building codes to be amended to ensure structures can withstand the impact of earthquakes.
The day after some residents experienced tremors as a result of a 7.7 magnitude earthquake near Jamaica, the prime minister told Parliament a determination would also have to be made on whether The Bahamas needed to be included in earthquake zones.
On Tuesday, a regional earthquake disrupted a Cabinet meeting and forced dozens along New Providence’s northern coast to evacuate their multi-storey office buildings and seek safety on ground level.
Cabinet Office ordered government offices closed early as a precautionary measure.
Dr Minnis said yesterday: “Going forward, our building codes may also have to take into consideration the impact of the affect of earthquakes in the region.
“Mr Speaker, today The Bahamas is not officially within the earthquake zone. However, it is essential for us to liaise with the relevant agencies, both regional and international research centres, so as to make a determination whether amendments are required or amendments are necessary to include The Bahamas within earthquake zones.
“If such amendments are necessary, then it’ll be essential for The Bahamas to look at its building codes and with international assistance make the necessary amendments to our building codes.”
Dr Minnis said the National Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Meteorology will carefully monitor any further earthquake advisories and tsunami threat messages from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC). He said the public will then be advised.
If there is an earthquake-generated tsunami threat to the region that includes The Bahamas, Dr Minnis told the House of Assembly that the PTWC will issue a tsunami watch and information to the country through the Meteorology Department.
The met office will then notify NEMA and the agency will then activate national response procedures, notifying relevant agencies and vulnerable communities.
The PTWC on Tuesday said a 7.7 magnitude earthquake occurred 83 miles northwest of Montego Bay, Jamaica, at about 2.10pm at the depth of six miles and was felt in New Providence around 2.15pm. According to the National Emergency Management Agency, there were no reports of impact to the southern islands.
Unlike Belize, Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, the Cayman Islands and Jamaica, The Bahamas never faced tsunami threats.
Some workers at Colina Insurance on East Bay Street felt the vibrations.
In the heart of downtown Nassau, The Tribune encountered Cabinet ministers and government workers leaving the Churchill Building due to the tremors shortly after 3pm on Tuesday. Some of them said they felt vibrations while others did not.
Education Minister Jeff Lloyd said ministers had just started their afternoon Cabinet meeting when they felt the building shake.
Elsewhere downtown, business continued as usual, with many saying they felt nothing.
Meanwhile, the United States Geological Survey reported that a 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit off the Cayman Islands about two hours after the first earthquake and there were several smaller quakes reported in and near Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.