A powerful earthquake shook Iceland on Thursday, rocking buildings in the capital, touching off landslides and forcing residents in outlying towns to evacuate. Channel 2 television reported injuries, though it was not immediately clear how many.
The US Geological Survey said the 6.1 magnitude quake hit at 3:46 p.m. (1546 GMT), with its epicenter near the town of Selfoss, 30 miles (50 kilometers) east, southeast of the capital, Reykjavik. Sharp aftershocks are feared in the southwest of the country within the next few hours, and police traveled around the nearby town of Hveragerdi, 45 kilometers (28 miles) east of Reykjavik, with a bullhorn, advising residents to stay outdoors.
An Associated Press Television News cameraman in Hveragerdi reported at least two aftershocks, and said residents were beginning to pitch tents outside because they were not allowed to return home. Amateur video footage aired on the national broadcaster RUV television showed rocks tumbling down the sides of jagged peaks in Vestmannaeyjum, a small archipelago off the south coast of Iceland. Residents in the capital felt buildings shake. The road between Reykjavik and Selfoss was closed by quake damage, RUV said. Don Blakeman, an earthquake analyst at the US Geological Survey in Boulder, Colorado, said earlier, less reliable readings had indicated the quake could have been as powerful as a magnitude 6.7. "It looks like a 6.1 or a 6.2," he said by telephone. "As this part of Iceland sits on the north Atlantic ridge, it's not uncommon for there to be earthquakes."
Iceland, population 300,000, is a geologically unstable volcanic island in the north Atlantic. The country's last major earthquake, in June 2000, measured 6.6 on the Richter scale. It knocked down a dozen houses but caused no serious injuries.