LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A powerful earthquake rocked Anchorage on Friday (Nov 30), violently shaking homes and businesses, sending residents into the streets and damaging buildings in Alaska’s largest city.
The 7.0-magnitude quake struck at 8.29 am local time (1.29am Saturday Singapore time), in the middle of the school run and as workers were heading out for the day.
Several people were wounded, mainly from broken glass and falling objects, but no deaths were reported, according to US media.
The epicenter of the quake was about 13km north of Anchorage at a depth of 40km, according to the US Geological Survey.
Police in the city of around 300,000 said it had caused “major infrastructure damage”.
“Many homes and buildings are damaged,” the police department said in a statement. “Many roads and bridges are closed. Stay off the roads if you don’t need to drive.”
A tsunami warning was issued for the Cook Inlet and the Kenai Peninsula following the massive quake, but was quickly lifted.
Residents posted pictures and videos to Twitter of damage to their homes and stores – belongings knocked off of shelves, broken windows and pictures scattered on the floor.
Local CBS television affiliate KTVA posted a video of a room shaking back and forth with panels falling from the ceiling and lights flickering on and off as people hid under desks.
“Everyone just sprinted out of the coffee shop I was at in Anchorage in the middle of a huge earthquake,” Nat Herz, a reporter with news portal
Alaska’s Energy Desk, posted on Twitter. “Car alarms going off, etc. But not seeing any serious damage here aside from random stuff falling over. People going back to computers, meetings.”
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski said the authorities were worried about access to power following the quake. “It’s winter. It’s cold. It’s dark. And we’re not sure what the power situation is,” she said. “We’re worried about breaks in gas lines.”
UNIVERSITY, AIRPORT CLOSED
ENSTAR Natural Gas asked residents to beware of gas leaks while the main water company said there had been water main breaks.
Municipal Light & Power warned of possible downed power lines and said it was seeking to restore electricity to affected customers.
About 2½ hours after the quake, the utility said approximately 7,000-10,000 customers were still without power. The company said there was no damage to electricity generation infrastructure.
The University of Alaska announced it was closing for the day.
“All non-essential personnel should go home,” it said in a tweet.
Anchorage airport temporarily halted inbound and outbound flights after the air control tower was evacuated.
In an audio recording posted online, an air traffic controller could be heard telling a FedEx cargo plane to go around – abort its landing – as the quake hit.
A video posted to Twitter showed a buckled road on a highway exit ramp leading to the airport and a stranded car.
The Anchorage School District told parents to come pick up their children “when you feel it is safe to do so”.
The Trans Alaska Pipeline, one of the longest crude oil pipelines in the world, was shut down as a precautionary measure so crews could inspect the system, but returned to service after no damage was found.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump had been briefed about the quake and was monitoring damage reports.
“To the Great people of Alaska. You have been hit hard by a ‘big one’,” Trump tweeted. “Your Federal Government will spare no expense. God Bless you ALL!”
Trump declared a state of emergency in Alaska, releasing federal aid.
Alaska was hit by a 9.2-magnitude earthquake in March 1964, the strongest ever recorded in North America. It left 139 people dead.