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Tsunami warning issued as 7.8-magnitude quake hits off Alaska

Residents of Alaskan peninsula scramble to higher ground, but experts say they don’t expect massive wave to hit

The moon rises over the coast of Alaska as the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica sails along the international date line through the Bering Strait, July 14, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
The moon rises over the coast of Alaska as the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica sails along the international date line through the Bering Strait, July 14, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

WASHINGTON, United States — A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck off the Alaskan peninsula Wednesday, triggering a tsunami warning for areas within 200 miles (300 kilometers) of the epicenter.

Sirens blared as residents were warned to move inland or to higher ground, reports said.

The shallow quake hit at 0612 GMT Wednesday about 500 miles southwest of Anchorage, and around 60 miles south-southeast of the remote settlement of Perryville, the US Geological Survey said.

“Based on the preliminary earthquake parameters … hazardous tsunami waves are possible for coasts located within 300 kilometers of the earthquake epicenter,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

A tsunami warning was in effect for the Alaskan peninsula and south Alaska.

“For other US and Canadian Pacific coasts in North America, the level of tsunami danger is being evaluated.”

Warning sirens sounded in Kodiak, the main city on Kodiak island, and several thousand people were evacuating lower lying areas, Sergeant Daniel Blizzard, with the Alaska State Troopers, told 11 KTVA News.

“People are pretty concerned especially with an earthquake that big that close to Kodiak,” he said. “The last one, there was no wave whatsoever. This time, we’re not sure there is a wave, but we are preparing like there is one.”

The first place predicted to see a tsunami wave, Sandy Point, had so far reported only “a very small wave,” James Gridley, director of National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, told Alaska Public Media (APM).

“We’re not expecting a massive wave anywhere,” he said.

A car is trapped on a collapsed section of the offramp of Minnesota Drive in Anchorage, Alaska, November 30, 2018, following an earthquake. (AP Photo/Dan Joling)

The quake, however, was felt hundreds of miles away.

“Bed and curtains were going. Felt like a very long quake!” one witness in Homer, Alaska, 400 miles from the epicenter, said on the quake monitoring website msc-csem.org.

It was followed by several aftershocks, the strongest measuring 5.7.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The tremor appeared to be a subduction zone quake, where two tectonic plates converge, a seismologist said.

“It’s the interface, the plate boundary between where the Pacific plate thrusts underneath North America. A very standard type of earthquake in this area,” Mike West from the Alaska Volcano Observatory told APM.

Alaska is part of the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire.

The US state was hit by a 9.2-magnitude earthquake in March 1964, the strongest ever recorded in North America. It devastated Anchorage and unleashed a tsunami that slammed the Gulf of Alaska, the US west coast, and Hawaii.

More than 250 people were killed by the quake and the tsunami.

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