Tsunami warning after major earthquake strikes the Gulf of Alaska

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A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.9 has struck the Pacific Ocean, centered off the coast of Alaska and Canada, seismologists and residents say. A tsunami warning has been issued for Alaska and British Columbia.

The earthquake, which struck at 12:32 a.m. local time on Tuesday, was centered in the Gulf of Alaska, about 276 kilometers (171 miles) southeast of Kodiak City in Alaska, or 576 km (358 mi) south of Anchorage. It struck at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), making it a very shallow earthquake.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) put the preliminary magnitude at 7.9, down from initial estimates of 8.2 and 8.0.

“Based on the preliminary earthquake parameters, widespread hazardous tsunami waves are possible,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a bulletin to member states. In a second update, it said the potential tsunami could be destructive “even far from the epicenter.”

As a result, a tsunami warning has been issued for coastal areas of British Columbia and Alaska, from the Washington/BC border to Attu, Alaska. “If you are located in this coastal area, move inland to higher ground,” the U.S. Tsunami Warning Center said in a warning.

A tsunami watch has further been issued for the enter U.S. West Coast, from the Mexico/California border to the Washington/British Columbia border. A tsunami watch is also in effect for the U.S. state of Hawaii. “If you are located in this coastal area, stay alert,” the watch said.

No warnings or watches are in effect for other countries, but the Pacific Warning Center said small tsunami waves could reach the U.S. territory of Guam, Japan, Johnston Atoll, Mexico, Midway Island, the Northern Marianas, Russia, and Wake Island.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties as a result of the earthquake itself, but people across the region reported feeling it. “It wasn’t a super hard shake but definitely strong enough to wake me up,” a resident in Anchorage told EMSC.

The sparsely populated region of Alaska, which sits on the so-called ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’, is occasionally struck by powerful earthquakes. Most notably, an enormous 9.2-magnitude earthquake struck north of Prince William Sound in Alaska on March 27, 1964, unleashing a tsunami which killed at least 143 people.

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