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Magnitude-6.8 earthquake hits Alaska, jolting nerves

In this photo provided by Vincent Nusunginya, items fallen from the shelves litter the aisles inside a Safeway grocery store following a magnitude 6.8 earthquake on the Kenai Peninsula on Sunday Jan. 24, 2016, in south-central Alaska.
Image Credit: Vincent Nusunginya via the AP
January 24, 2016 - 11:30 AM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A magnitude-6.8 earthquake knocked items off shelves and walls in south-central Alaska and jolted the nerves of residents in this earthquake-prone region. But there were no immediate reports of injuries.

The earthquake struck about 1:30 a.m. Alaska time and was centred 53 miles west of Anchor Point in the Kenai Peninsula, which is about 160 miles southwest of Anchorage, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. About two hours later, a magnitude-4.3 aftershock hit the Cook Inlet, the agency said. A slightly stronger aftershock — magnitude-4.7 —hit the Cook Inlet at 5.29 a.m.

The possibility of a gas leak led to the evacuation of more than a dozen homes in Kenai.

The earthquake was widely felt by residents of Anchorage. But the Anchorage and Valdez police departments said they have not received any reports of injury or significant damage.

Vincent Nusunginya, 34, of Kenai said he was at his girlfriend's house when the earthquake hit.

"It started out as a shaking and it seemed very much like a normal earthquake. But then it started to feel like a normal swaying, like a very smooth side-to-side swaying," said Nusunginya, director of audience at the Peninsula Clarion newspaper. "It was unsettling. Some things got knocked over, but there was no damage."

There were reports of scattered power outages from the Matanuska Electric Association and Chugach Electric in the Anchorage area. The Homer Electric Association reported on its website that about 4,800 customers were without power early Sunday in the Kenai Peninsula.

The Alaska Department of Transportation reported on its Facebook page that there was road damage near the community of Kasilof, on the Kenai Peninsula.

Andrew Sayers, 26, of Kasilof was watching television when the quake struck.

"The house started to shake violently. The TV we were watching fell over, stuff fell off the walls," he said. "Dishes were crashing, and we sprinted toward the doorway."

Later, he was driving to his mother's home when he came across a stretch of K-Beach road that was damaged in the quake.

"We launched over this crack in the road. It's a miracle we didn't bust our tires on it," he said.

Sayers took video of the road damage.

Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl said 22 homes were evacuated in the community over the possibility of a gas leak. Sandahl said early Sunday morning that the fire department and gas company were investigating at the scene.

Fire departments in Kenai, Anchorage and other communities were getting calls about the quake.

A dispatcher for the Homer police department, who declined to identify herself, said no one called to report broken gas lines there or any significant damage, but many called to report feeling the strong quake.

The hashtag #akquake was trending early Sunday on Twitter, where people were sharing their experiences of the quake and posting photos of items that had fallen off walls and shelves.

After reaching his mother's house, Sayers checked on his grandparents, who live about a mile away.

"No damage, except their Christmas tree fell over," he said.

A tsunami is not expected as a result of the earthquake, the National Weather Service said.


Associated Press writer Tarek Hamada in Phoenix contributed to this report.

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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