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Quake rattles Washington

A rare, powerful 5.8-magnitude earthquake rattled the eastern third of the United States on Tuesday afternoon, damaging older buildings, shutting down much of the nation’s capital and unnerving tens of millions of people all along the East Coast.

world Updated: Aug 25, 2011 00:59 IST

A rare, powerful 5.8-magnitude earthquake rattled the eastern third of the United States on Tuesday afternoon, damaging older buildings, shutting down much of the nation’s capital and unnerving tens of millions of people all along the East Coast.

It didn’t add up to a natural disaster, but it was still a startling geological event, the strongest East Coast tremor in 67 years, and it effectively wiped out the workday in Washington.

The earthquake forced the evacuations of parts of the Capitol, White House and Pentagon. There were no immediate reports of deaths, but fire officials in Washington said there were some injuries.

The US Geological Survey said the quake registered magnitude 5.8 and was centred about 40 miles north-west of Richmond, Virginia.

Two nuclear reactors at the North Anna power station were taken off line. In Washington DC, thousands poured into the streets as offices, including in the Pentagon and the Capitol, were evacuated. Manhattan's forest of skyscrapers could be felt gently shifting from side to side.

At 1:51 p.m. a fault near the town of Mineral, Virginia., suddenly ruptured. It began with a shudder, as if a helicopter were landing nearby or perhaps someone had turned on a large piece of machinery. Within a couple of seconds, it grew into a heaving, bucking, earthquake.

It was over in less than a minute. Workers surged out of office buildings, and cellphone networks quickly clogged.