A 7.2-magnitude quake has struck Russia’s Far East region, striking off the Kuril Islands and prompting a tsunami warning for the sparsely populated region.
The quake was felt across the region on Wednesday afternoon local time, with a depth of 56.7km (35 miles). There are no reports of damage or casualties as of yet.
The earthquake triggered a tsunami alert in Hawaii, 5,600 kilometers away, but it was soon called off, with the US National Tsunami Warning Center concluding there was no danger to the small Pacific island chain.
A tsunami warning was also issued for Severo-Kurilsk District of Russia’s Sakhalin Region, a local branch of the Geophysical Survey of the Russian Academy of Sciences reported.
Striking in the Pacific Ocean 219km (136 miles) southeast of Severo-Kurilsk – a small town with a population of just over 2,500 on the northern end of the Kuril Islands – the quake was initially reported as magnitude 7.8, but was soon revised down to 7.5 by the USGS. The Russian Academy of Sciences’ Geophysical Survey reported it as 7.2.
Terrified locals took to social media providing first-hand accounts of the event that has sent ripples across the region.
“I have never felt anything like that… We immediately ran out of the house, while we usually do nothing,” one person tweeted. “I was really scared.”
Another witness said that she has never experienced anything like Wednesday’s tremor during the 15 years she has lived in the earthquake-prone region.
“I was scared so much for the first time. A photo frame and a vase with artificial flowers fell to the ground.”
Local media reports that people rushed out of their homes, fleeing malls, shops, and offices when the quake struck the region in the middle of the workday around 2:42pm local time. Some were heard screaming as they dashed outside, scrambling to make it to safety. People would not return for 10-20 minutes before the tremors subsided, EADaily reported.
The region is no stranger to earthquakes, with a 4.9-magnitude earthquake slamming Kronotsky Bay on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula late last month, 300km (200 miles) north of Severo-Kurilsk.
UrduPoint reports that a small tsunami did indeed strike the northern Kurils:
A magnitude 7.6 earthquake occurred some 500 kilometers (300 miles) from the Russian Far Eastern city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the Kamchatka office of the Geophysical Service of the Russian academy of Sciences said.
“Earthquake 14:49 (02:49 a.m. GMT), max magnitude 7.6, total of 463 kilometers from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. The data will be specified,” it said.
No casualties or destruction have been reported by regional emergencies services.
There is a risk of tsunami in the North Kuril area after the earthquake, the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk seismological station’s head, Yelena Semenova, told Sputnik.
The authorities said residents were being evacuated on the Kuril island of Paramushir due to the tsunami threat.
Later in the day, the the department of the Russian Emergencies Ministry in Sakhalin island region said that the height of a tsunami wave in Severo-Kurilsk town was 50 centimeters (1.6 feet).
“The tsunami wave with the height of 50 centimeters hit Severo-Kurilsk at 03:15 p.m. local time [04:15 GMT]. There were no preliminary reports about injuries or damage. The threat of tsunami remains, that is why residents of Severo-Kurilsk will stay in a safe area on a hill. Experts will make a decision to cancel the alert after the low tide begins,” the statement said.