Officials: US Quake Largest on East Coast in 67 Years

Posted August 24th, 2011 at 3:25 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Geological Survey officials say Tuesday's 5.8 magnitude earthquake was the largest to strike the eastern part of the country since 1944.

The quake, centered in the small town of Mineral in the eastern state of Virginia, rattled homes as far away as Ottawa, Canada and forced the evacuation of businesses in major cities across the region.

In Washington, 144 kilometers away from the quake's epicenter, tourist sites and monuments were closed as inspectors assessed damage.

Officials say the Washington Monument, the 170-meter obelisk located on the National Mall, is closed indefinitely after cracks were found at the top of the structure. The Washington National Cathedral is also closed to visitors after losing three of its four Gothic spires.

Authorities evacuated the U.S. Capitol building, the Pentagon, and other federal buildings, including VOA headquarters, which temporarily stopped normal broadcasting after the ground began shaking.

Near the quake's center in rural Virginia, the North Anna nuclear power station halted operations and was forced to run on back-up diesel generators, one of which failed. Officials say the public was not in danger, and that the power plant is designed to withstand a magnitude 6.2 earthquake.

There were no reports of serious damage or casualties, but officials warned that smaller aftershocks are likely in the coming days.