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Fri Jan 14, 2022, 01:59 PM

On this day in 1907, Jamaica shook three times


In Jamaica, January 14, 1907 the relatively simple and quiet existence of the city of Kingston was hit at about 3 pm by three shocks which caused considerable damage to every building in the city and spawned a fire that gutted much of the commercial centre. Property valued at some two million pounds sterling lay in ruins.

For the inhabitants of Kingston, the thirty seconds just past 3:30 pm on January 14, 1907 were the nightmare of a lifetime. It did not end with the earthquake. Before nerves were calmed, a fire started which completed the devastation. The commercial area of downtown Kingston, bounded on the east by Mark Lane, west to Orange Street, South Parade to the north and the sea to the south, was in shambles. “Everything crashed.” The day was not easily forgotten by those who experienced and survived the tremor. They saw around them, clouds of dust, crumbled buildings, masses of debris. In addition, there was the screams of the trapped, and later the gruesome sight of the charred bodies of man and animals. Water pipes were broken, tram lines were twisted, electric poles bent. The earthquake claimed 1200 lives out of the population of 48,000. According to an eyewitness report by P.A Smith on the water front “streets finished up flush with the water’s edge, the gutters were running in blood and colouring the water for quite sixty yards out.” Although much emphasis has been placed on the effect of the Kingston area where $2 million in damage (excluding damage to government municipal buildings) was done, the quake was felt through the entire western end of Jamaica and severely damaged the North Coast towns of Buff Bay, Annotto Bay and Port Maria as well as the hillside villages between the North Coast and Kingston. The 1907 earthquake was neither the firs not the most severe tremor experienced in Jamaica. In 1692 some 3000 persons lost their lives in the great earthquake which devastated Port Royal.

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