An earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter Scale struck the Caribbean island of Dominica on Sunday, November 21, 2004 at 7:41:08 am, local time. The quake caused mudslides in the region that had already been affected by heavy rains over the last several days. Dominica's National Emergency Office in the capital, Roseau, reports that the earthquake affected primarily the northern town of Portsmouth. Search and rescue efforts were hampered by blocked roads from the landslides. Grand Fonds, population 500, was cut off by these landslides.

All the patients from the Portsmouth hospital were evacuated. Some have been relocated to the main hospital in Roseau, others at the doctor's residence in Roseau and others were sent home. Currently no clinic services are being conducted in the Portsmouth area and the Ministry of Health requires assistance to assess the structural integrity of the facility as soon as possible.

PAHO/WHO will support a structural assessment of the hospital in order to make a decision regarding the extent of the engineering work that may be necessary or whether it is feasible to advise the Ministry that it is safe enough for them to continue to utilize the facilities in the interim.

A PAHO/WHO epidemiologist will visit Portsmouth today or tomorrow to assess the impact on the health services.

More information on the situation in the health sector will be available from PAHO/WHO as it becomes available. Additional information on the earthquake and general information on earthquakes can be accessed via the website of the Seismic Research Unit at or at


The same earthquake also caused damage in Guadeloupe, which has been a French possession since 1635. Guadeloupe is an archipelago of nine inhabited islands, including Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, La Desirade, Iles des Saintes (2), Saint-Barthelemy, Iles de la Petite Terre, and Saint-Martin (French part of the island of Saint Martin).One fatality was attributed to the disaster.

Material damages

The archipelago of LesSaintes suffered the brunt of the earthquake's impact. According to the Mayor, most public buildings were destroyed. Of 200 houses, one-third are completely destroyed and all have cracks (half of them need to be entirely rebuilt).

The Préfet and the presidents of the Conseils Général and Régional paid a visit to the islands and promised some aid. The French Minister for Overseas Territories was meant to arrive on Tuesday in Guadeloupe.

Requests for Assistance

No request for assistance has been made. Three teams, including psychologists, were already on the spot Monday morning.


Photos from the disaster in Dominica

A crowd observing the damage

Cracks in Portsmouth Hospital

A colapsed structure in Zicack

The Methodist Church

These photographs are courtesy of Ashton Riviere at More can be found at his website.