Office of the Governor
Department of Disaster Management
Release Date:
Tuesday, 7 January 2020 - 2:13pm


Good day to all.

Many of you would have already been following – and possibly feeling – the increase in seismic activity that has been occurring in our region since the earthquake swarm south of Puerto Rico in December last year.  Seismic activity continued this morning with a magnitude 6.4 earthquake at 4:24 am. This event was followed by several aftershocks, and taken together, these seismic events have caused damage in Southwestern Puerto Rico in areas like Guanica and Ponce.

Thankfully, no serious injuries have been reported, from this morning’s events. It is also important to note that no tsunami advisories, warnings or watches have been issued as a result of any of the recent seismic events. However, aftershocks from these earthquakes may continue to be felt in the coming days and weeks, and these aftershocks may be as strong or nearly as strong as the initial event.

Officials at the Puerto Rico Seismic Network, which monitors all seismic activity for Puerto Rico and the US and British Virgin Islands, report that these seismic events are occurring because of friction between the Punta Montalva Fault on land and the Guayanilla Canyon, located about 18 kilometres southeast of Guanica, Puerto Rico, or about 160 miles from the Territory. This seismic activity has been closely monitored since it began, and the Puerto Rico Seismic Network has recorded more than 1,300 individual seismic events as of last week associated with this movement.    Here in the British Virgin Islands our Department of Disaster Management is closely monitoring events and will provide any further updates or advice as required. 

While there is no need to panic, the event is a timely reminder that we live in a very seismically active area. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands sit on the border of two plates that move regularly. This means that persons who live in the BVI are vulnerable to earthquakes, and we all need to be vigilant as these seismic events generally come with no advance warning.

I encourage all persons in the Territory to review their family emergency plans, and make sure that they are familiar with the established tsunami evacuation routes so that everyone can #BeReady for any future earthquakes.

During an earthquake, it’s common to feel fear and even panic. Please, do not let panic carry you into danger. The safest thing to do in the event of an earthquake is to remain calm; and to drop, cover and hold until the shaking stops. If you are indoors, keep away from windows, ceiling fans and other objects that may fall in strong shaking. If you are outdoors, you should likewise keep away from buildings, utility poles, and other objects that may fall. 

If you are in your car or driving and an earthquake strikes, pull over to the side of the road, stop, and set the parking brake. Avoid bridges, power lines, signs and other hazards. Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking stops, then proceed carefully by avoiding fallen debris, cracked or shifted pavement, and allow access by emergency vehicles. If a power line falls on the car, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire.

The Government of the Virgin Islands issues notifications of earthquakes via official sources like the Department of Disaster Management’s app, website and social media profiles, and further notifications will be issued as necessary.

As many of you are aware, a major earthquake could trigger a tsunami. All residents should know the proper tsunami evacuation route to follow if needed. The procedures for tsunami evacuation is very different from what is recommended during and after an earthquake and therefore we must be able to respond sequentially or to listen out for the sirens or other alarms if a distant or near shore tsunami occurs with the potential to affect our coast.

Please continue to #BeReady.

Thank you.