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Strong Far East quake felt in Moscow

World News : A massive undersea earthquake Friday in Russia’s Far East prompted a tsunami warning and unleashed tremors across Russia including in Moscow around 10,000 kilometres away, but caused no casualties or damage.

The USGS estimated the quake at 8.3 magnitude and placed its epicentre in the Sea of Okhotsk off the shore of the Kamchatka Peninsula at a depth of more than 600 kilometres (370 miles).

Russia issued a tsunami warning for Sakhalin island and its region, urging residents to seek higher ground. But the warning was later lifted with no reports of casualties.

The huge magnitude and great depth of the quake meant that its echoes were felt across the Eurasian continent including in the Russian capital itself.

“The whole plate — on which the continent stands — shook,” Anatoly Tsygankov of the state Rosgidromet environmental monitoring service told AFP.

“And this movement of the continental plate was felt all over Russia — not just in Moscow, we received calls from Nizhny Novgorod and other cities,”

In the nearest city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, around 350 kilometres away, the quake was felt to a magnitude of up to 5 but there were no casualties or damage, the emergency situations ministry said.

“Aftershocks of a magnitude of up to 2 were recorded in Krasnoyarsk, Tomsk and Novosibirsk regions [of Siberia] as well as several others,” the emergency situations ministry said.

The emergencies ministry in Moscow, which is eight time zones away from the region hit by the quake, said it had received reports of chandeliers swinging and water in aquariums shaking as a result of the quake.

“In Moscow, the earthquake was felt on the top floors of high-rise buildings,” the ministry said.

In central Moscow, around 700 staff of an insurance company were evacuated for an hour after some saw furniture move and windows shaking, the Echo of Moscow radio station reported.

Several other office buildings in central and eastern Moscow were briefly evacuated, witnesses wrote on Twitter, posting photographs of people huddled on the street.

The emergency ministry even opened a hotline number to calm shaken Muscovites.

“Moscow is part of the zone where possible repercussions from earthquakes can be felt. It’s not dangerous but important, for example, for building standards,” Arkady Tishkov of the Geography Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences told Interfax.

He said however that the last time this happened in Moscow was 30 years ago.

“In Moscow, underground tremors were felt for the last time in 1984 when there was an earthquake in Moldova and Romania,” Yury Varakin, the head of Rosgidromet’s situation centre, told AFP.

A 22-storey office building in Saint Petersburg was evacuated after the people working there felt the building shaking, the local emergency situations ministry said.

“People reported that they felt the building vibrating like during an earthquake and some started leaving their desks,” the ministry said.

“We are studying the building. The people have been evacuated.”

The waves from such a quake travel long distances deep beneath Earth’s surface, said Alexei Lyubushin, chief researcher of the Institute of Physics of the Earth at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

“If an earthquake happens at such a low depth, the waves move along low layers, practically the mantle,” he told Kommersant FM radio.

“The waves can even move through the Earth’s core,” he added.

There have been four major earthquakes with a similar epicentre since 1988 but because of their great depth they have not caused damage, the USGS said. (AFP)

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