Magnitude-6.8 earthquake hits southern Alaska

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A magnitude-6.8 earthquake hit southern Alaska early Sunday morning, awakening residents, shaking buildings and knocking items off shelves in the earthquake-prone region.

The earthquake struck about 1:30 a.m. Alaska time and was centered 55 miles southeast of the town of Illiamna and 160 miles southwest of Anchorage, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The earthquake was widely felt by residents of Anchorage, and there are reports of scatted power outages.

One home was extensively damaged in an explosion following a Sunday morning earthquake.

Thirty homes that had been evacuated as firefighters, policemen and gas utility workers continue to work on the gas leak that followed the quake.

Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl says about 20 people are taking shelter at the Kenai Armory after the neighborhood was evacuated.

Police initially responded to another house and put out a fire there with an extinguisher. But then a flame came under a wall, and they backed off. Firefighters put this fire out, and the explosion happened at a neighboring house a few hours later.

Sandahl says all firefighters and utility workers were accounted for, and there’s been no reports of injury.

Anchorage resident Ron Barta says his house shook about 1:34 a.m. when the earthquake hit. Barta, 55, says the pictures on the walls started moving, but there was no damage to his house and no one was hurt.

Barta, who has lived in Anchorage for about 10 years, says Alaskans on social media say the earthquake woke them up.

Joshua Veldstra, a professional photographer who lives in Homer, said the earthquake lasted about 30 seconds.

“When it hit, it was just soft at first, and it just kept getting bigger,” Veldstra said. “It was one of those moments where you didn’t’ know if it was going to get worse or if it was going to calm down.”

Two smaller earthquakes — a 4.0 and a 3.2 — struck within 30 minutes after the first one.

The National Weather Service says a tsunami is not expected.