Powerful Quake Leaves Iceland Residents Homeless, Cleanup Effort Begins

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Residents of southwest Iceland cleaned up Friday after a powerful earthquake left some homes uninhabitable and caused injuries to about 30 people.

The injuries included a couple of broken legs and fractured hands, said Vidir Reynisson, manager of the Civil Protection Department.

Reynisson said between 10 and 20 homes were unsafe because of cracked walls and broken windows, but he did not have a precise count.

The tremor that struck Thursday afternoon had a magnitude of 6.2, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The worst damage was mainly to building interiors in Hveragerdi and Selfoss, about 30 miles east of the capital, Reykjavik.

"There was a lot of damage inside buildings, things were thrown from the shelves, but no collapsed homes," Reynisson said. Some sheep were killed when an outbuilding collapsed, he added.

The jolt also opened a steaming new fissure in an area of geothermal springs. That was not a problem, Reynisson said, because it was within an already enclosed area of springs.

"The concentration now is on how to get the social relief that is needed, and we are now planning how to set up an information center," he said in a telephone interview.

Visitors to Iceland took Thursday's big tremor in stride.

"I travel all over the world and I tend to bring rain everywhere I go," said Lorre Napoli, a microbiologist from Phoenix, Arizona. "This is the first time I've felt maybe I brought an earthquake to Iceland, because I asked the driver and he said there hadn't been one for quite a while."

"I'm not really worried, because I've been sleeping outside," said Davide Giammaria, 30, a bus driver from Rome who was on a camping trip. "I'm not sleeping in a building. So nothing can fall on me."

Iceland, population 300,000, is a geologically unstable volcanic island in the north Atlantic.

The country's last major earthquake, in June 2000, measured 6.6 on the Richter scale. It knocked down a dozen houses but caused no serious injuries.