Once-a-century earthquake rattles U.S. East Coast

Wed Aug 24, 2011 4:15am GMT

By Lily Kuo and Malathi Nayak

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A strong earthquake rattled the U.S. East Coast on Tuesday, sending tremors as far as Canada, damaging well-known buildings in the nation's capital and sending scared office workers into the streets.

There were no reports of major damage or serious injuries from the 5.8 magnitude quake, which was cantered in Mineral, Virginia, about 90 miles (145 km) southwest of Washington, D.C.

It was the largest quake in Virginia since 1897 and struck at a shallow depth, increasing its potency.

The Pentagon, White House and U.S. Capitol were evacuated in Washington, and thousands of alarmed workers scurried into the streets up and down the East Coast as the lunchtime quake sent items crashing down from store and office shelves.

"We were rocking," said Larry Beach, who works at the U.S. Agency for International Development in downtown Washington. "It was definitely significant."

Federal workers were sent home early.

Washington's National Cathedral, host to state funerals and memorial services for many U.S. presidents, suffered damage with three spires in the central tower breaking off.

The U.S. East Coast does not normally experience quakes as strong as Tuesday's. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was of 5.8 magnitude, downgrading an earlier estimate if 5.9.   Continued...

Court workers try to contact loved ones outside the New York State Supreme Courthouse after evacuating in New York when an earthquake struck the East Coast of the United States, August 23, 2011.    REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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