Magnitude-5.6 quake strikes near Guantanamo, Cuba

The Washington Post (Link) - Reuters - Esteban Israel (March 20, 2010)

A 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck near Guantanamo city in eastern Cuba on Saturday, sending residents fleeing into the streets but a local government official said there were no casualties.

A spokesman at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay reported no damage there.

�It�s all calm. There�s no damage and no victims either,� said a local government official in Guantanamo city, who asked not to be named.

State-run Radio Reloj reported from Guantanamo that the quake caused cracks in some buildings and some pieces of masonry fell.

The quake, which also was felt strongly in Cuba�s second city of Santiago de Cuba, was centered 27 miles southwest of Guantanamo at a depth of 14 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

�It was very big. I was at my computer and suddenly felt the strong shake and we all went into the street,� said Lisset Foster, who rents out rooms at her house in Guantanamo city. �Everyone is in the street.�

Residents of Santiago de Cuba, about 32 miles from the epicenter, also felt the temblor.

�It was awful. You could feel it pretty strongly. It lasted longer than normal. Our phones are only receiving calls,� Ariadna, a 34-year-old Cuban in the eastern city, told Reuters.

A magnitude-5 quake can cause considerable damage but Chief Petty Officer Bill Mesta, a spokesman at the U.S. Guantanamo base, said none was reported.

No tsunami warning was issued for the region.

The U.S. base in southeastern Cuba was used to transport supplies and personnel to the aid effort after the devastating 7.0-magnitude January 12 quake in Haiti, about 200 miles away.

A prison on the base, set up for terrorism suspects after the September 11, 2001, attacks, houses 188 detainees. President Barack Obama pledged in January 2009 to close the controversial prison within a year but his efforts have been hampered by legal and political hurdles.