Tsunami warnings as powerful quake hits off Alaska

23 January 2018 - 14:33 By afp.com
File photo of Alaska. A 7.9 quake struck off of Alaska's coast, leading to tsunami warnings on 23 January 2018.
File photo of Alaska. A 7.9 quake struck off of Alaska's coast, leading to tsunami warnings on 23 January 2018.
Image: 123rf\ oceanfishing

A powerful earthquake of 7.9 magnitude struck off the coast of Alaska early Tuesday, prompting tsunami warnings or watches as far away as California.

The quake struck at 09:31 GMT (11:31 SA time) in the Gulf of Alaska, 280 kilometers southeast of the town of Kodiak, the US Geological Survey said, revising a preliminary estimate of 8.2 magnitude. The epicenter was 10 kilometers under the seabed.

Tsunami warnings were issued for south and southeast Alaska and the west coast of Canada, the National Tsunami Warning Center said.

Less-ominous tsunami watches were issued for the US west coast -- the entire coasts of California and Oregon and part of Washington state -- and Hawaii out in the Pacific.

Tsunami waves could hit the coasts of Oregon and Washington as early as around 1310 GMT, the Portland office of the National Weather Service said.

Heather Rand, who was 360 miles away in Anchorage, told CNN it felt like the longest earthquake she had ever experienced.

"It was a very long, slow build up. Creepy, more than anything. Definitely the longest, and I was born here," Rand said, adding the only damage was cracks in the wall.

So far no quake damage or large waves have been reported in Kodiak, which is on an island off the coast, police spokesman Tim Putney told AFP.

"We are half an hour beyond the time we were told the first wave might hit. Nothing has happened," he said around 11:15 GMT (13:15 SA time).

"We have people with their eyes on the sea, from a safe distance," Putney added.

Still, authorities urged coast dwellers to seek safety.

"If you are located in this coastal area, move inland to higher ground," the Anchorage Office of Emergency Management said.

"Tsunami warnings mean that a tsunami with significant inundation is possible or is already occurring. Tsunamis are a series of waves dangerous many hours after initial arrival time. The first wave may not be the largest."

The USGS has a interactive map of the quake.