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Rare earthquake rattles Washington, offices evacuated in New York

Wednesday August 24, 2011 11:57:56 AM, Arun Kumar, IANS

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Quake jolts US cities, Obama holds conference with officials

US President Barack Obama held a conference call with top officials of his administration Tuesday following the 5.9-strong earthquake that hit the country's east coast in the afternoon. The quake occurred at 1751 GMT and was described    

Washington/New York: The most powerful earthquake to strike the US East Coast in 67 years rattled millions of Americans from Georgia to northern New England and led to evacuation of parts of the White House, Capitol and Pentagon.

No major injuries or extensive damage were reported after the 5.8-magnitude earthquake, which struck near the town of Mineral, Virginia about 88 miles southwest of Washington Tuesday. Three aftershocks were reported by Tuesday evening.

Frightened office workers spilled into the streets in New York and a nearby nuclear power plant was shut down, according to reports. The quake prompted evacuations of office buildings and the precautionary closing of monuments in the nation's capital.

The quake was also reported to have been felt on the island of Martha's Vineyard, where President Barack Obama was playing golf. He did not feel the earthquake, according to the White House.

The National Cathedral said its central tower and three of its four corner spires were damaged, but the White House said advisers had told Obama there were no reports of major damage to the nation's infrastructure, including airports and nuclear facilities.

Two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station, in the same county as the epicentre, were automatically taken off line by safety systems, said Roger Hannah, a spokesman for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Aftershocks of magnitude 2.8 and 2.2 were recorded later in the afternoon, followed by one of 4.2 just after 8 p.m. officials said. More aftershocks are possible in the coming weeks.

"It's one of the largest that we've had there," US Geological Survey seismologist Lucy Jones said of the quake.

The quake, which was recorded at 1:51 p.m., was shallow-just 3.7 miles deep, The magnitude was initially reported as 5.8, then revised to 5.9, and then revised again back to 5.8.

Tuesday's incident occurred in a known seismic zone in central Virginia, said Dave Russ of the US Geological Survey. But the strength of the earthquake was a bit surprising. A 5.9 event occurred in 1897 near Blacksburg, he said.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at






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