UPDATE 2-Quake rattles buildings, nerves in Cayman Isles

Tue Jan 19, 2010 11:40am EST

Related Topics

* 5.8 magnitude quake shakes island capital George Town

* No injuries or damage reported, just shaken nerves

* Affluent British territory has tough building codes (Adds quotes, detail, bylines)

By Alan Markoff and Shurna Robbins

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Buildings and homes shook in the Cayman Islands on Tuesday as a 5.8 magnitude earthquake rattled the Caribbean hedge fund center, but there were no reports of injury or damage.

Minor temblors are common in the region, but Cayman residents were mindful of the 7.0 earthquake that devastated much of the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince a week ago.

"The whole building was rocking," said Junior Elliott, 30, who was delivering water bottles to a four-story office building near the harbor in George Town, the capital.

"Everybody scrambled, trying to get out. They couldn't use the elevators, so they went down the stairs."

The earthquake hit 30 miles (50 km) southeast of Grand Cayman Island at 9:23 a.m., Cayman Islands Chief Meteorologist John Tibbetts said.

"I have heard no reports of any damage in Grand Cayman. There have been no calls to 911 or Hazard Management. It appears to be just a shaking for us," Tibbetts said.

Some phone systems were temporarily out of service but the quake had not caused major disruption, residents said.

Under Cayman building codes, homes and commercial structures must be built to withstand hurricanes as well as earthquakes. Grand Cayman lies just north of a very active fault line called the Oriente Fracture Zone, which roughly follows the northern edge of the Cayman Trough, the deepest part of the Caribbean Sea.

Grand Cayman experienced a 6.8 magnitude earthquake on December 14, 2004, just three months after being devastated by Hurricane Ivan. But that earthquake caused only minor damage to some home foundations and swimming pools. (Editing by Jane Sutton and David Storey)

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