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7.7 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Caribbean



A major earthquake hit the Caribbean on Tuesday, but initial reports suggest the damage was minimal.

The epicentre of the temblor was125 kilometers northwest of Lucea, Jamaica, and was at a depth of about 10 km. It was originally rated a 7.3 on the Richter scale but was upgraded to 7.7 by U S. authorities.

The shaking was felt as far away as Miami.

Initial reports said tsunami waves as high as one meter might take place along some coasts of Belize, Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, but those reports, thankfully, appeared to be incorrect.

Vancouver resident Craig Amundsen was in the Cayman Islands when the quake hit.

“Initially I heard a very loud noise but it wasn’t until I stood up that I felt a strong rolling sensation under my feet.”

Amundsen told TravelPulse Canada he’s staying in a concrete, three-bedroom house on the west side of Grand Cayman.

“We live on the second floor, and the rolling continued for 45-60 seconds. We grabbed our kitten and went outside, where other neighbours were joining us. Our dwelling showed no visible damage, but quickly photos appeared on line showing sink holes and damage in shops.

“At 4:55 p.m. a 6.1 aftershock hit and again we felt the rolling sensation, but it was smaller and ended sooner.”

Amundsen said there was talk about tsunamis but that the geographic structure of the Cayman Islands features large sea walls that limit the development of tidal waves.

Still, he said schools and other buildings were evacuated during the quakes and students were moved to to the second floor of their schools.

Amundsen said sink holes appeared on the island and that the water supply was affected.

“There has been concern about the ability of the water authority and their need to limit water supply,” he said in an email last night. “We’re awaiting updates now.”

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U.S. State Department Stops Issuing Passports Amid COVID-19



The U.S. Department of State has scaled back its Passport Agency operations and will no longer be issuing new passports in view of the situation surrounding the still-escalating COVID-19 pandemic.

Travel + Leisure pointed out that the release of this directive in late March coincided with the State Department’s issuance of a Level 4 travel advisory, which warns Americans to avoid all international travel and instructing those outside U.S. borders to return home immediately or risk being stranded abroad for an indefinite period of time.

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The Passport Divisions’ recent policy change mentioned that those who had already applied to obtain a new passport or renew an existing one prior to March 20, 2020, will not have their orders affected. The agency said that it would honor its commitment to fulfilling those expedited-service orders placed on or before March 19 within two to three weeks, door-to-door.

Moving forward, passports will be available only to persons facing qualifying life-or-death emergencies, such as serious illnesses, injuries or deaths in their immediate family, which require them to travel outside the United States within 72 hours’ time.

Such persons will need to not only provide their passport application and supporting documents, and proof of planned international travel (e.g. reservation, ticket or itinerary), but also proof of the life-or-death circumstance. This might include documents like a death certificate, a statement from a mortuary, or a signed letter from a hospital or medical professional, and must be translated into English.

To make an appointment at a passport center in the event of a life-or-death emergency, one must call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:00 a. m. and 5:00 p.m., or Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (EST); or call (202) 647-4000 outside of regular business hours.

No indication was given as to when the State Department would again begin accepting passport applications. As is now the case among most organizations that are attempting to respond to the continually evolving pandemic, its future plans remain up in the air. The announcement only stated, “The status of our operations may change quickly. We will update this notice as the status changes.”

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