7 News Belize

Tsunami Scare Sends Belizeans Scrambling For The Hills
posted (January 10, 2018)

Last night at nine minutes to 9:00, you probably felt the earth, or the floor of your house shaking. That was a major earthquake in the waters hundreds of miles from Belize City sending tremors right into your living room. 

And while that caused only a slight disturbance, it's the aftermath that's making news tonight: by 9:00 PM, the National Weather Center in the US had sent out a tsunami alert for all land-masses within a one thousand kilometer radius of the earthquake's center.  

The warning was that the first wave of a tsunami could be reaching Belize by 10:30 pm.  

As Courtney Weatherburne reports, that news sent a flood of panic all along the coast: …

The sharp-pitched sirens from the fire truck reverberated through city streets – signaling Belize's first full-fledged Tsunami alert.

That alert came after a 7.6 magnitude earthquake shook the northern coast of Honduras. It hit east of the Great Swan Island – and Belizeans surely felt the aftershock.

Carol Pastor - Dangriga Resident
"This was around 9:00, what happened I was in my living room; my son watching TV and the next thing we knew we were just like shaking, moving, rocking and my son said mommy is that an earthquake?"

Courtney Weatherburne
"So the entire house was shaking?"

Carol Pastor
"Yes and this is what I was so surprised because here I said we are in a concrete house, solid foundation and when I say rocking, rocking!"

Other parts of the Caribbean and Central America felt the tremor too and Tsunami alerts were issued in Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Guatemala and more.

According to this map, Belize was 303 miles from the center and on the ground in Belize City and in the Cayes, the effects were seen as the waters receded.

That sent waves of terror through coastal communities. They were scrambling about to get fuel. Everyone along the coast were trying to get inland – bracing for the crashing waves that were expected to come.

The streets were desolate and the air tense. But at 10:52, the Tsunami alert was lifted and NEMO gave the all clear for residents to return to their homes. Now while it was just a scare, many still shudder at the thought of a Tsunami ever hitting Belize.

Carol Pastor
"I live Far Rockaway and in New York and in 2012 we had Sandy so I know what water could, the water damaging and not only because I live in Far Rockaway its even closer to the beach than I live here so I knew the devastation of it, it is nothing nice."

By midnight, the waters were coming slowly back to the shore - and everything was back to normal.  There was no tsunami in any of the countries within the threat zone.  In Honduras, waters went out 10 to 15 feet from the coast, and did not return to regular levels until this morning.  

Notably, the Tsunami Center says that a wave with a, quote, "maximum tsunami height" of 1.2 inches was recorded one a sea level gauge at Carrie Bowe Caye - which is east of Sittee River.

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