[private] Around 2:24 AM on May 28, a powerful 7.1 earthquake hit the Bay Islands for 45 seconds. The most powerful quake in decades shook houses, breaking glasses and dislodging roof tiles. Several aftershocks followed in the night hours causing concern and uncoordinated evacuation efforts by individuals and authorities.
“I felt I was on an airplane in a major turbulence. All the cans and coolers were smashed, my water heater was broken,” George Crimmin, owner of a West End hotel, said describing the quake.
Tourists from West Bay were evacuated in buses to the Cahoon Ridge around two kilometers from the popular beach destination. In anticipation of a tsunami, residents on West End and Sandy Bay were asked to leave their home as long as two hours after the quake.
“Right after the quake everything went dead silent and I could hear the roaring sound in the valley,” said Janine Goben, a Brazil Hill resident. Goben says that at the 150 meter above sea level ridge, about an hour-and-a-half later, busses and trucks begun arriving with people living close to the sea.
“The biggest impact of the entire earthquake is that 80% of our employees didn’t show up for work ‘because they were afraid’,” said Gary Chamer, owner of Palmetto Bay Plantation.
According to Luis Feldman, a Guanaja resident, around 60 Bonacca cay residents evacuated their boats in anticipation of a tsunami and went to the nearby airport and Armadores community. On Utila, many people left their homes and wandered into the streets. “This is the strongest quake I ever felt,” said Julia Keller, owner of Jade Seahorse cabins, that suffered damage to glass art displayed in its unique garden. The majority of the damage took place on the Honduran mainland where a major bridge collapsed and several people died.
The United States Geological Survey recorded the earthquake about 27 miles north east of Roatan, on the Cayman Islands trench that that forms a tectonic boundary between the North American Plate and the Caribbean Plate. The trench runs east to west, around 30 miles north of the Bay Islands and while earthquake caused by the two Caribbean plates moving are not infrequent they rarely go beyond 3.0 or 4.0 magnitude. According to USGS, the last major earthquake to hit Honduras was a 6.7 magnitude quake in July 1999. [/private]