At 11:43 am local time on June 7, 1692, the city of Port Royal, Jamaica was hit by a powerful magnitude 7.7 earthquake. The earthquake caused a landslide which forced a section of the harbour to collapse into deeper water and this generated a tsunami which destroyed ninety percent of the buildings in the city.

Immediately after the main shock, a further two thirds of the city slipped into the sea and within two minutes, the city was covered with water. Approximately 2,000 were drowned; about 1,000 more perished from the earthquake.

 

During the shaking the sand liquefied and the buildings, along with their occupants, appeared to flow into the sea. During the main shock the sand was said to have formed waves.

Along the coast of Liguanea Plain, site of present-day Kingston, the sea withdrew 274 m, exposing the bottom while in Yallahs it withdrew 1.6km (1 mile). The water returned as a 1.8m high wave which overflowed the greater part of the shore, swept over the land, destroying all the houses.

Port Royal was then the unofficial capital of Jamaica, and one of the busiest and wealthiest ports in the West Indies. It was known both as the "storehouse and treasury of the West Indies" and "one of the wickedest places on earth", being a common home port for the many privateers and pirates operating within the Caribbean Sea.

The buccaneer centre vanished beneath thirty feet of water. Hundreds of people, trapped in their houses, were drowned or buried alive. Corpses floated on the water and skeletons were torn out of their tombs in the graveyard. All the buccaneers' loot was lost, and for the town which some people had called 'the wickedest city in the West', the wild rowdy life was over.