The acting director of the Seismic Research Centre of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr Joan Latchman is warning Caribbean countries to be prepared for a magnitude-eight earthquake following the 5.2 tremor felt in Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday.
Trinidad's Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) said there were no reports of damage or injury from the quake that the National Earthquake Information Centre at the United States Geological Survey said that the quake was located 15 miles north-west of Port of Spain and 70 miles west south-west of Scarborough in Tobago. It was also felt in some sections of Venezuela.
Latchman said that a major quake could hit the Caribbean any day.
"Our largest earthquake close to Trinidad occurred in 1756 which is more than 200 years ago. The largest one in the Eastern Caribbean occurred in 1843, which is more than a 100 years ago; the region is poised for a large earthquake," she said on a radio programme here.
On January 12 this year, a magnitude-7 earthquake shook Haiti, killing an estimated 300,000 people and leaving more than one million others homeless.
Latchman said that while earthquakes in the magnitude 7.1 to 7.5 range have been recorded in the Eastern Caribbean "every 20 to 30 years, we have not had that one in the magnitude, eight range, that we expect every 100 years."
"We need to take it seriously... we need to take the earthquake hazard very seriously," she said.
Latchman said that Sunday's earthquake was part of a series of earthquakes that began in September 2006 when one of the tremors registered a magnitude of 5.8, the highest registered on land in Trinidad since the Seismic Unit has been monitoring earthquakes.