Alaska lowers tsunami warning after 7.5 magnitude earthquake but maintains evacuations

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The southern Aleutian Islands registers the earthquake 40 kilometers deep near its coasts and the city of Sand Point reports waves of 60 centimeters

An earthquake of magnitude 7.5 on the Richter scale has been registered in Alaska, United States, 91 kilometers from Sand Point, in the Aleutian Islands. The national office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has launched a tsunami alert on Monday and hours later has lowered the severity of the warning. The city closest to the epicenter has reported waves of just 60 centimeters and authorities have warned that nearby populations “should not expect a general flooding.” The earthquake has occurred offshore, about 40 kilometers deep, has indicated the US Institute of Geophysics (USGS, in its acronym in English).

The hazard zone has stretched hundreds of miles northeast to Cook Inlet, without encompassing the largest city, Anchorage. The small population of the rest of the State of Alaska, and especially that of its southern coast, are on alert. The Police Department of the town of Homer has asked residents of the lower areas to move to higher places and has evacuated two schools, a high school and two churches, according to the local station KTOO.

The quake had at least four aftershocks of at least magnitude 5.0 that were felt in the nearby community of King Cove, on the peninsula. So far, no casualties or material damage have been reported in the population, according to the city administrator, Gary Hennigh, at the Anchorage Daily News. “Residents and workers at the cannery are being evacuated to higher ground until we learn more about the tsunami warning,” Hennigh added.

Cold Bay resident Michael Ashley recounted how he experienced the earthquake. “All the sofas, recliners and bookshelves were moving, and I had to hold one of them,” he recalls. The earthquake comes nearly three months after another 7.8 magnitude struck a nearby region.

Alaska is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, seismically active and constantly threatened with alerts. In early 2019, a 6.1 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter 54 kilometers northwest of the Tanaga volcano and 129.5 kilometers northwest off the coast of Adak, shook the coasts of Alaska. Three months earlier, another 7.0 magnitude earthquake north of Anchorage caused property damage with no deaths or injuries.

March 1964 saw the archipelago’s most devastating phenomenon to date, the largest earthquake ever witnessed in North America and the third strongest in history. The 9.2 magnitude earthquake lasted more than four minutes and is known in geological history as the “Great Alaska Earthquake.” The earthquake caused by the collapse of the Pacific Plaza on the North American Plate led to a 67-meter high tsunami that wiped out several towns. A total of 190 people died and the damages amounted to 311 million dollars.

Seven years earlier, the Aleutian Islands had experienced an 8.6-magnitude earthquake that caused a strong tsunami. In this incident, damage was recorded on Adak Island, Alaska, but the most serious damage occurred on the Hawaiian Islands when the tidal wave reached them four hours later. There were no deaths from the tsunami, but a pilot and reporter lost their lives when their plane crashed while reporting on the tidal wave near Oahu.

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