Magnitude 7.6 earthquake hits in Caribbean north of Honduras

One of the strongest earthquakes to hit the Caribbean in modern times struck off the coast of Honduras on Tuesday night, shaking the mainland and setting off tsunami warnings that were cancelled about an hour later.

One of region's strongest earthquakes in modern times hits outside populated areas

One of the strongest earthquakes to hit the Caribbean in modern times struck off the coast of Honduras on Tuesday night, shaking the mainland and setting off tsunami warnings that were cancelled about an hour later.

There were no early reports of serious damage or casualties on land after the quake struck shortly before 10 p.m. ET. Officials in Honduras said shaking was registered across much of the nation and there were some reports of cracks in homes in Colon and Atlantida provinces along the northern coast and Olancho in eastern Honduras.

A magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck in the Caribbean Sea between the coast of Honduras and the Cayman Islands on Tuesday night. (Google)

Tsunami centres issued advisories and warnings for Puerto Rico, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands as well as on the coasts of Mexico and Central America, cautioning that sea levels could rise from 30 centimetres to a metre above normal, but no tsunami materialized.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake at a preliminary magnitude of 7.6. The tremor struck in the sea about 202 kilometres north-northeast of Barra Patuca, Honduras, and 303 kilometres southwest of George Town, Cayman Islands. The tremor occurred about 10 kilometres below the surface.

Sparsely populated area

The northern coast of Honduras closest to the quake's epicentre is sparsely populated, with much of it covered by nature reserves. The tremor was about 44 kilometres east of Honduras's Swan Islands, which are unpopulated except for a small navy post.

Tuesday's quake was one of the largest to hit the Caribbean in recorded history. The 2010 quake that devastated Haiti was magnitude 7.0.

CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe said given its power the quake was in "an amazingly good spot," in the waters between Honduras and Cuba.

"Any closer to either country and shaking would have been much worse," she said. 

With files from CBC News