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Earthquake of 5.5 magnitude rattles residents across Ontario and Quebec

Paintings fell from the walls, coffee sloshed out of cups andbewildered central Canadians wondered what in the world was going onWednesday as a “moderate” <font class="matchSearch"><font class="matchSearch"><font class="matchSearch"><font class="matchSearch"><font class="matchSearch"><font class="matchSearch"><font class="matchSearch"><font class="matchSearch"><font class="matchSearch"><font class="matchSearch"><font class="matchSearch"><font class="matchSearch"><font class="matchSearch"><font class="matchSearch">earthquake</font></font></font></font></font></font></font></font></font></font></font></font></font></font> rattled residents across a wide swath of Ontario, Quebec and the northeastern United States.

Paintings fell from the walls, coffee sloshed out of cups and
bewildered central Canadians wondered what in the world was going on
Wednesday as a “moderate” earthquake rattled residents across a wide swath of Ontario, Quebec and the northeastern United States.

The
U.S. Geological Survey initially described the event - an extremely
rare phenomenon so far east of the Rocky Mountains - as a magnitude 5.5
temblor that occurred at 1:41 p.m. ET and was centred about 60
kilometres north of Ottawa, in western Quebec.


The magnitude was
later downgraded to a 5.0 quake with an epicentre about 18 kilometres
underground. Residents across a wide swath of the eastern United
States, including New York, Vermont, Michigan and Illinois, also
reported feeling the ground shake.


Within minutes of the quake,
the Internet came alive with people saying they felt the earth rumble
in cities across Ontario and Quebec, including Windsor, Toronto, Ottawa
and Montreal.


For about 30 seconds, the tremors shook downtown
buildings, homes in west-end Ottawa and government offices across the
Ottawa River in Gatineau, Que.


Nova Scotia Liberal MP Roger
Cuzner, who was in his Parliament Hill office when the quake struck,
was cleaning up some constituency business when “the coffee in my cup
started slopping around.”


“You could feel the impact,” Cuzner marvelled.


In
Parliament's halls of power, quizzical staffers poked their heads out
of offices and stared around dumbfounded in the moments before Commons
security ordered everyone out in what Cuzner described as a brisk and
orderly evacuation.


Everyone filed down the stairs and out into
the driveway and after a few moments guard shephered startled staffers
and tongue-tied tourists back from the building an on to the front
lawn, which was strewn with staging for next week's Canada Day
festivities.


It was a frightening experience for anyone in one
of the political district, where some were fearful about the structural
integrity of the area's old historic buildings.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper was on his way to the airport and did not feel the earthquake, a spokesman said. Outside his office, a picture fell to the ground.


Mike
Charlebois, who works in the parliamentary dining room, was on the
sixth floor of the centrepiece building known as Parliament's Centre
Block when the shaking started.


“We were scared because we thought the building was going to fall apart,” Charlebois said.


“First
thing we did was evacuate the building because we had no idea what was
going on. The Parliament is very delicate; it could have been a bomb
threat or anything so we had no idea what it could have been.”


“It
was pretty scary because you have no idea what can happen, what it was
that made that kind of shakiness. We hear so much about terrorists,
stuff like that, it's (in the back of) our mind.”


Melanie
Lauzon, a Liberal staffer, was among those startled political staffers
commingling with tongue-tied tourists on Parliament's front lawn, which
was strewn with staging for next week's Canada Day festivities.


“The building is so old, and the crack and the sound - it was bizarre,” Lauzon said. “And very, very long.”


Coming
on the eve of the G8/G20 summits in Toronto, Lauzon said her first
thought was that Ottawa had been hit with “with a very large car bomb.”


Witnesses
in downtown Toronto also described feeling a prolonged tremor that
shook desks, rattled bookshelves and caused paintings on walls to shake.


Holly
Rockbrune, 25, works for an insurance company. She was home for lunch
when she began to notice something strange was happening.


“It was odd because I was in the kitchen making lunch and I could hear banging,” Rockbrune said.


“I
went into the living room and everything was rattling, but I didn't
think much of it so I went back into the kitchen. It only lasted a few
seconds.”


A four-hour drive north, in the city of North Bay,
Ont., Mayor Vic Fedeli was standing outside his office when he suddenly
felt his legs wobble.


“I came back into my office and all my
paintings are askew,” he said. “You really didn't hear anything, but
the entire seven-storey building shook.”


The city's switchboard “is lit up like a Christmas tree, with some people reporting sewer and water breakages,” Fedeli added.


Stephen Taylor, a political pundit in Ottawa, used his Twitter feed to describe what the tremors felt like.


“I was in an elevator when the earthquake hit,” Taylor wrote. “Debris hitting the top of it, walls scraping ... fun stuff.”


An
analyst with the survey said it's typical for a quake of that magnitude
to be felt more widely across the Eastern seaboard because of the
geological conditions there, which include the massive underground rock
shelf known as the Canadian Shield.


“The shield there, the structure of the crust is more rigid and so the waves carry better,” he said.


There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.


It was one of the most significant quakes ever measured in the region, according to the organization.


The
two largest quakes in western Quebec occurred in 1935 at magnitude 6.1
and in 1732 at a magnitude of 6.2, according to the agency.


It said earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains, although less frequent than in the west, are typically felt over a much broader region.


The survey also said that east of the Rockies, an earthquake can be felt over an area as much as ten times larger than a similar magnitude earthquake on the west coast.


Hundreds
of people were milling about on downtown Ottawa streets as the
Parliament buildings emptied, although the Prime Minister's Office
across the street at the Langevin Block was among the few that was not
evacuated.


A sitting of the Senate was disturbed, as were
preparations by the PMO for this week's G8 and G20 summits. PMO staff
were forced out onto Wellington Street.


Conservative Senator
Lowell Murray said the massive chandeliers of the upper chamber began
swaying during a mundane debate on energy issues.


“Initally we thought it might have been an airplane crashing into the building,” Murray said.


“But we were standing around wondering what was going on. And I quickly realized it was an earthquake. And then everybody started shouting out, out, out.”


Samantha Lehman, 14, was in a downtown shopping mall when the tremors began, and the fear among the people there was palpable.


“They
told us not to run but people were running out,” Lehman said. She said
she was “still kind of shaky, but I think we'll be ok.”


David
French, 53-year-old state worker from Cicero, New York, said he was at
his computer inside his home near Syracuse when he felt his chair shake.


“I thought the chair was breaking or something,” he said. “I looked over and my filing cabinet was moving.”


The quake prompted several calls to state police in the Adirondacks area.


“A
little shake, nothing too big,” is how Trooper Mark Revette described
the temblor. “It happens. We get a couple of these a year.”


Kellie Tassone, 40, was at home on Oneida Lake in Cicero.


“My
dog picked his head up just before it happened and kind of looked at
me,” she said. Then the sliding door started to rattle “and the house
was shaking.”


- With files from The Associated Press

 
 
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