UPDATE: Major earthquake hits near Anchorage, Alaska, briefly triggering tsunami warning
UPDATE: A 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Alaska on Friday, the United States Geological Survey said, prompting authorities to declare a tsunami warning, which was later canceled.
The quake hit about eight miles north of Anchorage. Videos posted to social media showed students taking shelter under desks and grocery store items knocked off shelves.
Gov. Bill Walker said he issued a major declaration of disaster after the "major earthquake" and is in communication with the White House.
"There is major infrastructure damage across Anchorage," according to a statement from the Anchorage Police Department. "Many homes and buildings are damaged. Many roads and bridges are closed. Stay off the roads if you don’t need to drive. Seek a safe shelter. Check on your surroundings and loved ones."
Close to 16,000 power outages were reported as of 2:30 ET, Chugach Electric Association said. The FAA announced a ground stop for flights into Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in response to the earthquake. The airport said some of its terminals sustained cosmetic damage. Water mains were ruptured and all elevators and escalators are out of service, the airport said, but power was working and backup generators are on standby.
The Anchorage School District posted a message to parents on via its official Twitter account. "We hope that everyone is safe after the earthquake. We are assessing building safety and damages now," the school district wrote. "We will update the community as new information comes in. In the meantime, parents and guardians, when you feel it is safe to do so, please pick your children up from school."
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump, who is Argentina for the G-20 Summit, has been briefed on the earthquake and is monitoring damage reports.
"We are praying for the safety of all Alaskans," she said.
Former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin tweeted, "Our family is intact - house is not ... I imagine that's the case for many, many others. So thankful to be safe; praying for our state following the earthquake."
PREVIOUS STORY: ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Back-to-back earthquakes measuring 7.0 and 5.8 rocked buildings and buckled roads Friday morning in Anchorage, prompting people to run from their offices or take cover under desks and triggering a warning to residents in Kodiak to flee to higher ground for fear of a tsunami.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the first and more powerful quake was centered about 7 miles (12 kilometers) north of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city.
Cracks could be seen in a two-story downtown Anchorage building. It was unclear whether there were injuries.
Photographs posted to social media sites showed damage that included collapsed ceiling tiles at an Anchorage high school and buckled roads. One image showed a car stranded on an island of pavement, surrounded by cavernous cracks where the earthquake split the road.
Cereal boxes and packages of batteries littered the floor of a grocery store, and picture frames and mirrors were knocked from living room walls.
People went back inside buildings after the first earthquake struck, but the 5.8 aftershock about five minutes later sent them running back into the streets.
Shortly after the quake, a tsunami warning was issued for the southern Alaska coastal areas of Cook’s Inlet and part of the Kenai peninsula. Kodiak police on Kodiak Island warned people in the city of 6,100 to “evacuate to higher ground immediately” because of “wave estimated 10 minutes.”
Alaska averages 40,000 earthquakes per year, with more large quakes than the 49 other states combined. Southern Alaska has a high risk of earthquakes because of tectonic plates sliding past each other under the region.
David Harper was getting some coffee at a store when the low rumble began and intensified into something that sounded “like the building was just going to fall apart.” Harper ran to the exit with other patrons there.
“The main thought that was going through my head as I was trying to get out the door was, ‘I want this to stop,’” he said. Harper said the quake was “significant enough that the people who were outside were actively hugging each other. You could tell that it was a bad one.”
On March 27, 1964, Alaska was hit by a magnitude 9.2 earthquake, the strongest recorded in U.S. history, centered about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Anchorage. The quake, which lasted about 4½ minutes, and the tsunami it triggered claimed about 130 lives.
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