Premier's Office
Department of Disaster Management
Release Date:
Tuesday, 7 January 2020 - 5:40pm

Message From Hon. Andrew A Fahie
Premier of the Virgin Islands

Government of the Virgin Islands and Department of Disaster Management Monitoring Seismic Activity

7 January, 2020

A pleasant Good Day and God’s Blessings to all the people of the British Virgin Islands. 

Today, I thank God for His continued favour and for His gratitude towards us as a people and as a Territory.

We would have learned about the recent swarm of earthquakes that have been occurring in the vicinity of neighbouring Puerto Rico over the past several weeks and with increasing frequency and intensity over the last two days - the most recent being this morning.

Reports indicate that some sections of the British Virgin Islands this morning experienced minimal effects from a 6.4 to 6.6 magnitude earthquake, the epicentre of which was approximately 160 miles away; specifically, South East of Guanica in Puerto Rico.

Thankfully, there have been no reports of injuries to persons or damage to buildings and properties in the BVI, and no watches or warnings have been issued for this Territory up to this time.

The extent of the impact of the earthquake in Puerto Rico is still being assessed by authorities there. Preliminary reports indicate that there has been one death, injuries, major damage to buildings and infrastructure in certain areas. The people of Guayanilla have lost a major natural tourism site called Punta Ventana, and we have also read reports and seen pictures and video footage of other damage to buildings, roads and vehicles.

The people of Puerto Rico may face significant losses, but, with God’s Grace, they will recover.

With earthquakes such as the ones yesterday and this morning, we can expect that more shaking to follow in the form of aftershocks, and we here in the Virgin Islands may feel some of those as well.

This means that we all need to stay vigilant and do our part to #BeReady for the possibility of an earthquake.  I therefore encourage you to reach out to the DDM through the various communication channels and find out what it takes for you to #BeReady. DDM on behalf of the Government is monitoring things closely.

We have a long-standing relationship with the Puerto Rico Seismic Network and the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, and we will continue to depend on them to design, implement and monitor the local earthquake network and issue the necessary advisories, watches or warnings for us.  They have given excellent support to our technicians over the years and continue to do so today.  We are grateful for this partnership.

In my 2020 Budget Address, I shared how your Government is committed to ensuring that our development is both transformational and sustainable.

Your Government has been working hard to make our entire infrastructure more resilient.

As part of our recovery we have sought to rebuild smart - safe, healthy and green - when it comes to these seismic hazards as well as the climate-related and seasonal hazards like tropical storms and hurricanes.

Indeed, “all persons, all hazards,” has been the watchword for your Government as we endeavour to move forward with Vision2020, your National Physical Development Plan; as well as other improvements like greener building standards; stronger, safer, smart schools; and the recently launched EU-funded Smart Shelters project.

As you carry out your private development, I would encourage you to listen to and follow the advice of Town and Country Planning, and to reach out to the DDM for information about hazard risk on your property.

Remember as well to insure your properties because the reality is we are on the earthquake belt. I know that some of you may be concerned that with all this seismic activity, we as a Territory should be thinking about the potential for a tsunami. Despite the frequency and strength of this series of events, thankfully DDM has advised that there have been no tsunami watches or warnings issued, but rest assured we are on high alert.

Still, I reassure you that your Government takes disaster preparedness and management very seriously. We understand the need for a concerted effort to integrate disaster management principles in our future development plans and to do whatever is necessary now to ensure that our residents and visitors are prepared, ready and safe.

As many of us know, earthquakes are a part of life in these Virgin Islands.  They are the reason why we have such beautiful beaches and blue waters.  Nature must be respected and we must be ready for these types of natural impacts.

I therefore encourage us to remember that our foundation to protection is prayer. We started of 2020 in the hands of God, and we will continue to position ourselves and this Territory in His hands. Our forefathers did this and now we must continue what they have started, leaning on God’s promise that He will guide and protect us.

I am calling on the Kingdom Ambassadors to do their part to pray for this place we call home. Together we will only believe!

Thank you, and May God bless this Territory