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SC earthquake sensor in Charleston picks up tremors of major quake near Jamaica

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As Puerto Rico tries to recover from a series of destructive earthquakes, a quake erupted Tuesday in the ocean off Jamaica that was more powerful than the Great Charleston Earthquake.

It was strong enough that a sensor at the College of Charleston picked up the tremor.

The quake was a magnitude 7.7 — capable of serious damage. Only about 20 of that strength occur worldwide each year.

It was followed three hours later by a 6.1 magnitude nearby off the Cayman Islands, among a series of smaller quakes in that region in the Caribbean Sea.

The Charleston quake in 1886 was a magnitude 7.3. It erupted near Summerville, killing 100 people, leveling nine of every 10 brick buildings in Charleston and damaging nine of every 10 in Summerville.

The Tuesday quake shook on the seafloor 87 miles from Montego Bay, Jamaica, between that island and Cuba. Tremors were felt as far away as the Bahamas. Schools in Jamaica and high-rises in Cuba and Miami were evacuated, according to tweets.

Tsunami warnings were issued for nearby coasts. But the danger was considered low because of the sideways motion of the tremor, tweeted Lucy Jones, a research associate at the Seismological Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

"But if I'm ever at the beach and feel strong shaking, I move to high ground. Downside is I lose a day at the beach. The upside could be my life," she said.

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Reach Bo Petersen at @bopete on Twitter or 843-937-5744.

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