A magnitude-6.5 earthquake struck northeast of Barbados early Tuesday, jolting thousands from their sleep but causing no reported damage or casualties.

It also was felt in the nearby French Caribbean island of Martinique.

Barbados Police Const. Chris Greg told The Associated Press by telephone that the earthquake was felt throughout the island.

"It was strong," he said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the temblor struck at a depth of 17 kilometres at 5:27 a.m. local time and was centred some 170 kilometres northeast of Bathsheba, Barbados.

Dennis Connell, a 55-year-old security supervisor at a local country club, said in a phone interview that he was just starting to wake up when the earthquake struck.

'I thought I was going sick'

"I felt like the place was spinning," he said, adding that he didn't realize it was a quake. "I thought I was going sick."

Connell lives at Barbados' most northern point, and said there was no damage to his home or his neighbours' houses.

Judy Thomas, director of Barbados' Emergency Management Department, said that thousands of people felt the quake but that it didn't last very long. She said she has received no reports of injuries or damage to infrastructure, and that there is no threat of tsunami.

"We're advising people to go about their business as usual," she said.

In Martinique, officials said no damage or injuries had been reported either. However, Valerie Clouard, director of the island's Volcanic and Seismic Observatory, warned of possible aftershocks in the next several hours.

The eastern Caribbean was last struck by a powerful earthquake in 2007, when a magnitude-7.4 quake centred just northwest of Martinique's coastline severely damaged some buildings on the island.