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Magnitude 5.0 earthquake shakes central Oklahoma


Cushing (US) : A sharp earthquake centred near one of the world’s key oil hubs triggered fears that the magnitude 5.0 temblor might have damaged key infrastructure in addition to causing what police described as “quite a bit of damage” in the Oklahoma prairie town of Cushing.

City Manager Steve Spears said a few minor injuries were reported and questioned whether some of the community’s century-old buildings might be unsafe. Police cordoned off older parts of the town to keep away gawkers.

“Stay out of the area,” Spears told residents during a late-night news conference.

Megan Gustafson and Jonathan Gillespie were working a shift at a McDonald’s in Cushing when the quake hit.

“It felt like a train was going right through the building, actually,” Gustafson, 17, said last night as she and her co-workers stood behind a police barricade downtown, looking for damage. “I kind of freaked out and was hyperventilating a bit.”

Gillespie, also 17, described the building as shaking for about 10 seconds or so.

But he said he wasn’t as alarmed as Gustafson because he lives in an area that has experienced multiple earthquakes, especially in recent years.

“I didn’t think it was anything new,” he said. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission said it and the Oklahoma Geological Survey were investigating after the quake, which struck at 7:44 pm and was felt as far away as Iowa, Illinois and Texas.

“The OCC’s Pipeline Safety Department has been in contact with pipeline operators in the Cushing oil storage terminal under state jurisdiction and there have been no immediate reports of any problems,” the commission’s spokesman, Matt Skinner, said in a statement. “The assessment of the infrastructure continues.”

Assistant City Manager Jeremy Frazier said two pipeline companies had reported no trouble but that the community hadn’t heard from all companies.

The oil storage terminal is one of the world’s largest. As of October 28, tank farms in the countryside around Cushing held 58.5 million barrels of crude oil, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration. The community bills itself as the “Pipeline Crossroads of the World.”

The Cushing Police Department reported “quite a bit of  damage” in the town of 7,900. Spears said some damage wassuperficial – bricks falling off facades – but that some older buildings might have damaged foundations that would be difficult to assess until daylight.

Fearing aftershocks, Police Chief Tully Folden said people needed to stay out of downtown, where photos posted to social media showed piles of debris at the base of commercial buildings.

Oklahoma has had thousands of earthquakes in recent years, with nearly all traced to the underground injection of wastewater left over from oil and gas production. Yesterday’s quake was centered one mile west of Cushing – and about 25 miles south of where a magnitude 4.3 quake forced a shutdown of several wells last week.

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