The Caribbean experienced a magnitude 6.5 earthquake early Tuesday morning, with an epicentre north of Barbados and east of Martinique in an area described as one of the most seismically active in the region.
The quake occurred at 9:27 Greenwich Mean Time (3.27 a.m. Eastern Time) Feb. 18, according to the United States Geological Survey.
Published reports indicated that so far, there are no reports of damage.
Tuesday's earthquake occurred 170 kilometres north of Bathsheba, Barbados and 210 kilometres east of Le Francois, Martinique.
The French territory of Martinque had experienced damage Nov. 29, 2007 after a fatal earthquake struck about 45 kilometres north of the island.
According to USGS, the North American plate moves west relative to the Caribbean plate to the south, at 20 millimetres per year. The boundary between those plates stretches from the Gulf of Honduras, east through the Caribbean Sea, curving around the northern shore of Puerto Rico and then south along a route parallel to and east of the Lesser Antilles.
"Here, the North and South America plates subduct towards the west beneath the Caribbean plate along the Lesser Antilles Trench at rates of approximately 20 mm/yr," according to the USGS. "As a result of this subduction, there exists both intermediate focus earthquakes within the subducted plates and a chain of active volcanoes along the island arc."
USGS notes the Lesser Antilles "is considered one of the most seismically active regions in the Caribbean," though "few" earthquakes in the last century were more than 7 on the Richter scale.
"The island of Guadeloupe was the site of one of the largest megathrust earthquakes to occur in this region on February 8, 1843, with a suggested magnitude greater than 8.0," USGS added. "The largest recent intermediate-depth earthquake to occur along the Lesser Antilles arc was the November 29, 2007 M7.4 Martinique earthquake northwest of Fort-De-France."
That earthquake killed one, injured at least 100 and damaged several buildings on Martinique, according to USGS.
Map courtesy of the United States Geological Survey