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Anchorage, Alaska earthquake prompts tsunami warning

Roads are blocked, several buildings are alight and other have been avacuated after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake ripped through Anchorage, Alaska.

The initial earthquake caused lamp posts and trees to sway, prompting people to run out of offices and seek shelter under office desks. Several powerful aftershocks have since rippled through the city and surrounding areas.

Anchorage Police have issued a statement, warning: “There is major infrastructure damage across Anchorage … many homes and buildings are damaged. Many roads and bridges are closed. Stay off the roads if you don’t need to drive.”

Police urged people to check on their friends and neighbours: “Keep an eye on each other, check on your neighbors – especially if they are elderly or disabled. We did have some reports of building collapses. No details on that yet.”

Anchorage emergency services say they experienced three fires after the quake. All occupants were evacuated and no fatalities reported.

The State Of Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management have warned that an aftershock larger than the original earthquake could happen in the coming hours.

“Stay off phone lines if you possibly can after checking on family. We need phone lines open. We are responding to significant events only until we can get a initial assessment. Looking for major infrastructure issues,” Anchorage fire chief Chief Hettrick said.

Alaska’s governor Bill Walker has declared a disaster, adding that he had contacted the White House for assistance: “Major General Laurie Hummel & I are now working with emergency responders to make sure Alaskans are safe,” he tweeted.

The mayor of Anchorage has reported that no major injuries have been reported as yet, but there are many reports of structural damage.

Elsewhere road slippages were causing major traffic delays.

Road crews out checking roads and bridges all around Alaska “because this was felt as far as Tok and Valdez,” an Alaska Department of Transportation spokesperson said.

“This was a big one,” another transport spokespersona added, saying that crews are checking damage as quickly as they can. “We have everyone out in the field.”

Power lines are down across a large region: “We are doing assessment and inspection right now. We need to inspect our equipment for damage before we can re-energise,” an electrical authority statement reads.

All rail services have likewise been suspended until the entire network can be assessed.

The US Geological Survey says the earthquake was centred about 12 kilometres north of Alaska’s largest city, close to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. It was registered as being about 40km deep.

Earthquake analyst Austin Elliot posted that the quake caused building to shake for some 40 seconds: “I suspect there are strong structural effects amplifying everything here, from intensity to duration. Will have felt much stronger and longer than on ground floor.”

At Anchorage Daily News in Midtown, walls cracked and ceiling panels buckled. Items were tossed off desks and walls, including computer monitors and a fire extinguishers.

The National Tsunami Warning Centre issued a tsunami warning for coastal zones of southern Alaska given the size and location of the quake. But such a wall of water did not eventuate.

The centre said that the warning was put in effect for parts of the state’s Cook Inlet and the southern Kenai peninsula.

Residents of Kodiak Island were told to move to higher ground immediately.

An Associated Press reporter working in downtown Anchorage saw cracks in a two-storey building after the quake. It was unclear whether there were injuries.

People went back inside buildings after the earthquake but the first of a series of aftershocks a short time later sent them running back into the streets again.

Originally published as Massive earthquake strikes Anchorage

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