MIAMI – People all over Miami say they felt buildings swaying after a massive earthquake measuring 7.7 magnitude was centered between the island nations of Cuba and Jamaica on Tuesday.
The United States Geological Survey reports the quake began at 2:10 p.m. and was centered 86 miles northwest of Montego Bay, Jamaica, and 87 miles west-southwest of Niquero, Cuba. The initial tremor was followed by a series of strong aftershocks, including one measured at magnitude 6.1.
A tsunami warning was not issued for any region, and the National Weather Service’s initial warning of waves up to 3 feet above tide level possible for Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico, Belize, Honduras and the Cayman Islands has expired.
Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell says those in eight buildings in the Brickell and downtown areas self-evacuated and the building department was onsite. The Stephen P. Clark Government Center has been closed as a precaution.
All Miami-Dade County courthouses have been evacuated and are expected to resume normal operations Wednesday.
City of Miami Fire Rescue, with the help of engineers, deployed a drone in the Brickell area to search for cracks in concrete or any broken windows.
Russell deployed crews to survey more than a dozen affected buildings throughout the city.
The Miami-Dade Emergency Operations Center was already activated due to the Super Bowl, but is now adding additional agencies to deal with the earthquake and infrastructure in South Florida.
Video from a Local 10 News viewer in Aventura showed the window shaking from side to side as the quake was felt in their home on the 30th floor of the Mystic Pointe apartments.
Roy Stein, who lives on the 32nd floor of 1060 Brickell, said he saw all the commotion from his balcony and went outside to find out what was happening.
“I spoke to somebody. He said the building moved,” Stein said. “I go, ‘What do you mean the building moved?’ And then after I spoke to a few other people and went online, I read about an earthquake in Cuba and that’s when I put two and two together and figured we had an earthquake, or it was at least felt here in Miami.”
Stein said he lived in California for 33 years and isn’t concerned about going back inside his building, but he spoke to some inside the nearby Bank of America building who said they saw doors slam shut.
“I think the 49ers have done this to get the home-field advantage in the Super Bowl,” he said, alluding to the upcoming Super Bowl in South Florida between San Francisco and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Hundreds of workers could be seen standing outside the Datran Center in the Dadeland area after evacuating the building, with police officers blocked traffic outside the buildings.
Tenants at the Miami Tower in downtown spoke with the city of Miami hotline to report the building’s movement, but did not evacuate.
Patrick Oppmann of CNN reports Cuban state media claims the earthquake was all across the island, with some of Havana’s taller buildings being evacuated. No damage has yet been reported in the country.
The quake could be felt strongly in Santiago, the largest city in eastern Cuba, said Belkis Guerrero, who works in a Catholic cultural center in the center of Santiago
“We were all sitting and we felt the chairs move,” she said. “We heard the noise of everything moving around.”
She said there was no apparent damage in the heart of the colonial city.
The quake also hit the Cayman Islands, leaving cracked roads and what appeared to be sewage spilling from cracked mains. There were no immediate reports of deaths, injuries or more severe damage, said Kevin Morales, editor-in-chief of the Cayman Compass newspaper.
The islands see so few earthquakes that newsroom staff were puzzled when it hit, he said.
"'It was just like a big dump truck was rolling past,"' Morales said. “Then it continued and got more intense.”
Dr. Stenette Davis, a psychiatrist at a Cayman Islands hospital, said she had seen manhole covers blown off by the force of the quake, and sewage exploding into the street, but no more serious damage.
A 7.7 magnitude earthquake is considered a major earthquake that can cause serious damage.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.