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TOBAGO Earthquake

April 22, 1997

Following are three articles dealing with the April 22, 1997 Earthquake:
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: 22 Apr 97 16:55:42 EDT
From: Greg Chamberlain <>
To: Electronic Evergreen 
Subject: Quake rocks Caribbean holiday island

Via MNI-INFO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
     SCARBOROUGH, Tobago (Reuter) - An earthquake and aftershock jolted the
Caribbean holiday island of Tobago Tuesday morning, destroying two houses and
badly damaging several government buildings, authorities said. 
     No one was reported hurt. 
     A spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado, told
Reuters Trinidad and Tobago had a quake measured at 6.5 on the open-ended
Richter scale at 5:31 a.m. local time Tuesday, with a 5.7 aftershock less than
an hour later. He said the epicenter for both tremors was 30 miles
west/southwest of Scarborough, capital of Tobago. 
    University of the West Indies seismologist William Ambeh said no damage was
reported in Trinidad. Tobago was hit by a quake on April 2 that damaged
government buildings, including the post office and library. 
     Flights are still on schedule to the 116-square-mile 
 island 21 miles northeast of Trinidad. The islands have been linked in a
unitary state since 1889. 
     Tourism is Trinidad and Tobago's main industry. 


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: 22 Apr 97 16:55:51 EDT
Subject: Trinidad-Quake

 Associated Press Writer 
   PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) -- An offshore earthquake shook homes and
tourist hotels on the Caribbean island of Tobago before dawn today. One woman
suffered a minor injury but no serious damage was reported. 
   U.S. and French observatories, including one in the Caribbean, measured the
magnitude at 6.5, capable of causing severe damage. But University of the West
Indies' Seismic Research Unit on Trinidad reported a magnitude of 5.9.,
seismologist William Ambeh said. 
   Trinidad is the bigger of the islands that make up the southeastern Caribbean
nation of Trinidad and Tobago, which have been experiencing a string of tremors
for the last few weeks with magnitudes up to 5.7. 
   Today's 5:31 a.m. quake was centered nine miles south of Tobago's main town
of Scarborough, Ambeh said. It was no cause for alarm, he said. 
   "When you live in zones like this, you should expect things like this to
happen," Ambeh said. 
   A woman was hurt when her house suffered unspecified damage at Canaan-Bon
Accord village on western Tobago. 
   The quake was followed by several aftershocks with magnitudes up to 5.7, said
the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo. 



---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: 25 Apr 97 08:03:23 EDT

PORT OF SPAIN, (Apr. 23) IPS - Tobagonians concerned with the  prospect of
picking up the political pieces following an important  upcoming by-election set
for May 5, now have something else on  their minds and it has nothing to do with
   For the second time in a month they are counting their losses after  a strong
earthquake shook the island yesterday. Two persons were  hospitalized and more
than 30 houses and public buildings were damaged in the quake, which measured
5.9 on the Richter Scale.  
   The very day the earthquake hit, one newspaper carried a special  section on
earthquake-preparedness quoting the director of the  National Emergency
management Agency (NEMA), Colonel Mahendra  Mathur, as saying that voluntary
building codes are being  completely ignored.  
   The last earthquake to hit the island was on April 2. That tremor caused one
house to collapse and substantial damage was sustained  by a number of public
buildings including the island's central bus  terminal, library and post office.

   This time, three houses collapsed. David Forde, one of the injured,  lost his
entire collection of antiques in the April 2 earthquake.  Now he is homeless.  
   The rest of Tobago had slowly begun to return to normal after a  series of
aftershocks associated with the first earthquake. Now  people are being told to
expect a fresh series of aftershocks  arising from yesterday's tremor.  
   Residents of this twin-island state are somewhat used to these  occurrences.
An earthquake registering 6.0 was recorded in the  morning in 1988, while
another of magnitude 5.7 was felt on the  southeast coast of Trinidad in 1994.
In both cases, damage was  minimal.  
   Several factors are being put forward for the extent of damage in Tobago by
this month's earthquakes. A seismic report issued in the  1980s pinpoints the
area between Scarborough on the southwest tip  of the island to Mount Irvine on
the northwest coast, as being particularly vulnerable to tremors.  
   Use of beach sand in Tobago for construction, a practice long  decried by
environmentalists, has been blamed by at least one  resident for contributing to
the damage to her house. The salt  content of the sand causes steel
reinforcements to rust and fall  away from the concrete.  
   However, the common denominator in all instances of damage has been  poor
construction practices. One insurance adjuster, after  surveying claims from the
first earthquake, stated, "There is a  complete absence of ring beams and other
measures of tying walls,  floors and roofs together."  
   His statement has been echoed by Dr. Myron Chin, Senior Lecturer  in the
Department of Civil Engineering at the University of the  West Indies, St.
Augustine campus located in Trinidad.  
   Chin says that "some supposedly well engineered buildings" have  not been
built to withstand such catastrophes as hurricanes and  earthquakes.
Referring to Hurricane Gilbert, which ravaged Jamaica in 1988,  causing severe
damage to hospitals, churches and schools, Chin  said, "The construction such
buildings is left to the builders  without adequate supervision, and as a result
the quality of the  product is often questionable."  
   Civil engineers in Trinidad have recognized the potential for  disaster and
commercial and industrial buildings located in this  heavily industrialized
country are normally built to the same  standards used in southern California in
the United States.  
   However, residential buildings throughout the country are not  normally
constructed by civil engineers and builders. Vowing that  "God is a Trini
(Trinidadian)" -- a statement popularized after  many near-miss hurricanes --
Trinidadians tend to disregard even  the most inexpensive mitigating measures.  
   Chin has called for the enforcement of the Caribbean Uniform  Building Code
(CUBIC), a series of building codes and standards for  all Caribbean countries
reviewed in 1995. Mathur says the codes  are not mandatory but even when they
become law they are not going  to be easy to enforce.  
   Officials at the Trinidad-based seismic Research Unit do not want anyone to
be lulled into any sense of complacency. Seismologist,  Dr. William Ambeh, who
oversaw early work on the simmering  Montserrat Volcano says Trinidad and Tobago
are in this for the  long haul.  
   "We can't see any trend. It's just that where we are, we are  susceptible to
earthquakes," he says.  
   NEMA officials are hoping over the long-term that the two southern  Caribbean
islands do not remain susceptible to the level of  earthquake damage currently
being witnessed in Tobago.  
   Ancil Stewart's house is not far from the building which collapsed  on April
2. He thought he was safe. Today he stood inspecting his  car, which was
sandwiched between the top floor and the foundation  of his house.  
    Copyright 1997  


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