Earthquakes common in Caribbean

This evening's devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti has been followed by a series of large aftershocks measuring more than 5.0 on the Richter scale. It was also preceded by  smaller quakes (2.9 to 3.4) in Puerto Rico, across the Mona Passage from the island Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic. Here's more news from Haiti.

Although it is not as familiar as the Pacific's seismically and volcanically active "Ring of Fire," the Caribbean Islands also lie on an active fault system. Earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis are all facts of life in the islands, past and present.

The much-visited port of Charlotte Amalie, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, was the scene of a devastating tsunami in 1867 that sent a 20-foot wall of water surging in to the harbor. Large U.S. Naval ships were beached by the waves. Other Caribbean ports also felt the tsunami.


Another large quake (magnitude 7.5) in October 1918 struck Puerto Rico. It killed more than 100 people, caused widespread damage, and sent a tsunami as high as 20 feet ashore.

An earthquake in Jamaica in 1692 destroyed the port city of Kingston, and dropped it into the sea. More than 5,000 people died. Jamaicans felt the Tuesday evening quake in Haiti, too.


The most famous volcanic event in the Caribbean was the 1902 eruption of Mt. Pele, on the French island of Martinique.  Now regarded as the deadliest volcanic eruprtion of the 20th century, it killed nearly all 30,000 residents of the capital, Saint-Pierre.

One of the two survivors lived because he was in a poorly ventilated jail cell.

On the island of Monserrat (right), the Soufriere Hills volcano has been in some state of eruption since 1995, when it destroyed the capital town of Plymouth. Two-thirds of the island's population was forced to leave. Here's a recent satellite photo.

(AP PHOTO/Brennan Linsley, 2006)