UPDATE: Magnitude 6.0 earthquake hits U.S. East Coast
An unusually strong and shallow earthquake struck the U.S. East Coast and Canada on Tuesday, shaking buildings, forcing evacuation of office buildings in several cities and delaying flights in New York.
There were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries from the 5.9 magnitude quake, which the U.S. Geological Survey said was centered in Mineral, Virginia, at a very shallow depth of 0.6 mile.
The Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol evacuated in Washington, and thousands of panicked office workers scurried into the streets of the city after the lunchtime quake, which sent items crashing to the floor from store and office shelves.
“We were rocking,” said Larry Beach, who works at the U.S. Agency for International Development in downtown Washington, 83 miles from the quake’s epicenter. “It was definitely significant.”
Earthquakes of magnitude 5.5 to 6 usually cause slight damage to buildings and other structures.
In New York, the tremors prompted evacuations of courthouses, City Hall and halted work at the World Trade Center construction site.
Control towers at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City and Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey were also evacuated, and flights were delayed while authorities inspected control towers and runways.
“We’re going to hope to resume operations. We are talking hours, not longer,” a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said.
It was not immediately clear if there was any damage or injuries in New York, but fire department and police officials in Dutchess County, north of New York City, reported structural damage to some buildings.
“We’re getting a lot of calls on buildings shaking but there’s no report of any structural damage at this time. Just panicked people calling about buildings shaking,” a spokesman for the New York City Fire Department said.
Buildings in Boston were evacuated, while a Reuters witness said the quake was felt as far away as Toronto.
Traffic lights were knocked out throughout Washington, and units at a nuclear power plant in Virginia went off line by the quake.
The quake was initially recorded at 5.8 magnitude.