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Speaker Kinsella addresses Senators on the lawn of Parliament Hill attempting to adjourn for the day following the earthquake Wednesday in Ottawa. (Natalie Fletcher)
Speaker Kinsella addresses Senators on the lawn of Parliament Hill attempting to adjourn for the day following the earthquake Wednesday in Ottawa. (Natalie Fletcher)

Earthquake shakes central Canada Add to ...

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake hit central Canada Wednesday afternoon, rattling buildings from Sudbury to Quebec City, and as far south as New York City.

The epicentre of the quake was in Quebec, about 38 kilometres north of Cumberland, Ont., which is on the Ottawa River, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and struck at 1:41 p.m. EDT at a depth of 18 kilometres.

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There have been two recorded earthquakes with a magnitude over 6.0 in the Western Quebec seismic zone: a 6.1-magnitude quake in 1935 and one measuring 6.2 in 1732.

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"Earthquakes are fairly uncommon here," said Morgan Moschetti, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "This isn't totally unheard of, but they are relatively infrequent."

Mr. Moschetti said aftershocks are "definitely a possibility" but that such smaller earthquakes are sometimes so minor they are hardly noticeable.

"After any large event, there's going to be some adjustment in the earth," he said.

Mr. Moschetti said the earthquake was felt in the U.S. from Chicago to western Maine.

An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.0 is considered to be a moderate one but it can cause major damage to poorly constructed buildings over small regions. At the most, it should cause only slight damage to well-designed buildings. However, parts of the Ottawa Valley, including Ottawa, are at greater risk of structural problems because of ground acceleration, a phenomenon in which the type of bedrock amplifies the effects of the tremor, said Alexander Cruden, a professor of geology at University of Toronto.

Glass shattered, pictures fell off walls and a small bridge was damaged near a series of small villages just north of the epicentre, at a dam called Barrage-McLaren.

Mervyn Mallon said traffic is being detoured around an old bridge near Bowman, Que., along Highway 307, about seven kilometres north of the epicentre. Quebec provincial police said a piece of road gave way just before the bridge. A man who was fishing nearby was injured but drove himself to a nearby hospital.

"That's the only report of injury we've had, and it seems quite minor," said Sgt. Claude Denis of the provincial police.

Mr. Mallon, a retired farmer who has lived through a handful of earthquakes in the area about 55 kilometres north of Ottawa, said it was by far the biggest he's seen in his 73 years.

"I was looking at a book when the mirror started swinging on the wall. I caught it before it fell on the floor," said Mr. Mallon.

"The extent of it varies from house to house, depending on foundations and that sort of thing, but so far it's mostly pictures and nick nacks."

"People are a bit shook up because they've never experienced such a thing."



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About seven kilometres to the south of the epicentre, in Poltimore, Mr. Mallon's daughter, Valerie Brunet, was gardening when she was surrounded by breaking glass and falling plants.

"I was in an outside shed and I literally thought the building was coming down on me," said the dental assistant who was enjoying a day off.

"The dog was going nuts, running around barking. But there's no real damage to speak of."

Ms. Brunet said there have been a series of smaller aftershocks since the quake.

The quake happened in the western Quebec seismic, near the boundary between the Ottawa-Bonnachere and western seismic boundaries. Geologists have yet to determine which of the two seismic zones the quake happened in, but both areas are known for low to moderate seismic activity, Dr. Alan Baird from Queen's University said.

Early reports on the USGS website labelled the earthquake as 5.5 magnitude. Soon after, it was downgraded to 5.0.

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