No tsunami arrived and there were no immediate reports of deaths or serious injuries.
The US Geological Survey said the first and more powerful quake was centred about 12 kilometres north of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, with a population of about 300,000. People ran from their offices or took cover under desks. The 5.7 aftershock arrived within minutes, followed by a series of smaller quakes.
The quake broke store windows, knocked items off shelves, opened cracks in a two-storey, downtown building, disrupted electrical service and disabled traffic lights, snarling traffic.
It also threw a full-grown man out of his bathtub.
Flights at the airport were suspended for hours after the quake knocked out telephones and forced the evacuation of the control tower.
And the Alaska oil pipeline was shut down while crews were sent to inspect it for damage. Governor Bill Walker issued a disaster declaration.
He was in a lift in a high- rise Anchorage office building and said it was a “rough ride” coming down.
Anchorage Police issued a statement, warning: “There is major infrastructure damage across Anchorage … many homes and buildings are damaged. Many roads and bridges are closed. Stay off the roads if you don’t need to drive.”
Here’s the islanded car at the wrecked anchorage off ramp. pic.twitter.com/626As53hzF— Nat Herz (@Nat_Herz)
This is what happened on the 6th floor of the Nesbett Courthouse during the Anchorage #earthquake. Both attorneys jumped under their desks. Evacuated the building after the shaking stopped. pic.twitter.com/dqHGPCv6XO— Heather Hintze (@HeatherHintze)
Police urged people to check on their friends and neighbours: “Keep an eye on each other, check on your neighbours — especially if they are elderly or disabled. We did have some reports of building collapses. No details on that yet.”
Anchorage emergency services say they experienced three fires after the quake first. All occupants were evacuated and no fatalities reported.
Elsewhere road slippages were causing major traffic delays.
Road crews are out checking roads and bridges all around Alaska “because this was felt as far as Tok and Valdez,” an Alaska Department of Transportation spokesman said.
“This was a big one,” another transport spokesperson added, saying that crews are checking damage as quickly as they can. “We have everyone out in the field.”
Power lines are down across a large region: “We are doing assessment and inspection right now. We need to inspect our equipment for damage before we can re-energise,” an electrical authority statement reads.
ird2018xltd Southern Alaska M 7.2 2018/11/30 17:29:28 – Event has not yet been reviewed by a seismologist. For subsequent updates and details, please see https://t.co/2iv7tNXIcw #earthquake #séisme #terremoto #지진 #地震 pic.twitter.com/C7vNiJDk85— Earthquake watch SWP (@NCseismicobserv)
— Clay Butcher (@ClayButcher)
All rail services have likewise been suspended until the entire network can be assessed.
The US Geological Survey says the larger earthquake was centred about 12 kilometres north of Alaska’s largest city, close to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
It was registered as being about 40km deep.
ALASKA HIT BY MOST POWER QUAKE EVER
Alaska was the site of the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in the US The 9.2-magnitude quake on March 27, 1964, was centred about 120km east of Anchorage.
It and the tsunami it triggered claimed about 130 lives.
The state averages 40,000 earthquakes a year, with more large quakes than the 49 other states combined. Southern Alaska has a high risk of earthquakes because the Earth’s plates slide past each other under the region.
Alaska has been hit by a number of powerful quakes over 7.0 in recent decades, including a 7.9 in January southeast of Kodiak Island.
But it is rare for a quake this big to strike so close to such a heavily populated area.
7.2 earthquake here in Anchorage, Alaska. This is a video my dad took from the Minnesota exit ramp from international. 😰😰 pic.twitter.com/1yOGj3yz9q— sarah m (@sarahh_mars)
— Daniella Rivera (@RiveraDanie)
To the Great people of Alaska. You have been hit hard by a “big one.” Please follow the directions of the highly trained professionals who are there to help you. Your Federal Government will spare no expense. God Bless you ALL!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)
— KTVA 11 News (@ktva)
— Anchorage Daily News (@adndotcom)
— Mike (@VactusSerakai)
TALES OF TERROR
April Pearce was at her desk at work in the assessor’s office in the small city of Soldotna and started filming once she realised the rumbling of the earthquake was the start of something big.
In the video, the murmurs of her colleagues can be heard as filing cabinets jostle.
Pearce says: “Holy smokes.” She says in an email later that people were gasping and panicking and called the event “spooky.” Her home escaped major damage, but some Christmas decorations fell down.
— Cassie Schirm (@cassieschirmtv)
Aerial view of the Minnesota Drive ramp damage at West International Airport Road. pic.twitter.com/AASlWSUVqp— Governor Bill Walker (@AkGovBillWalker)
Fifteen-year-old Sadie Blake and other members of the Homer High School wrestling team were at an Anchorage school gymnasium waiting for a tournament to start when the earthquake hit.
She says the bleachers started rocking “like crazy” and then the lights went out. People ran the bleachers in the pitch dark, trying to get out. Team chaperone Ginny Grimes says Tuesday’s quake created “a gym full of screams.” By the time it was over, Sadie was still in the gym and says she started crying while hanging out in a nearby mall with her team.
— Sharon Lane (@LaneSadalup)
On the first floor for the second earthquake. The metal detectors all go off at the same time when the earth is moving, guard explained. Several new cracks reported in Nesbett Courthouse wall. pic.twitter.com/xO8ZUz875J— Heather Hintze (@HeatherHintze)
“People went running out of the building, tons of computer monitors went down, bookshelves went down,” she said. “I heard a part of the building sunk 10 inches.”
She said she saw many emergency vehicles as she drove home to assess her property, and saw a plume of smoke from a house fire. Traffic was at a standstill and there were a number of cars in the ditch. “Every traffic light I passed was out,” she said.
An Associated Press reporter working in downtown Anchorage saw cracks in a two-storey building after the quake. People went back inside buildings after the earthquake but the first of a series of aftershocks a short time later sent them running back into the streets again.
— Allison Louise (@allisonlouise)