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Magnitude-6.2 Quake Hits Norway

Thursday, February 21, 2008

OSLO, Norway —  A magnitude-6.2 earthquake, the largest ever recorded on Norwegian territory, hit off the Arctic Svalbard islands early Thursday, the national seismic monitoring center said. No casualties or damage were reported.

The quake could have been catastrophic if it had hit a more densely populated area, said Conrad Lindholm, senior researcher of the seismic institute NORSAR.

"This is extremely rare," Lindholm said by telephone, adding it was the strongest quake in Norway since it started taking records about a century ago.

The Web site of the U.S. Geological Survey confirmed a preliminary magnitude of 6.2 for the temblor, but did not say whether it was a record for Norway.

The quake was centered under waters, about 90 miles southeast of Longyearbyen, the main settlement on Svalbard, Lindholm said.

He said there could be aftershocks, but little chance they would move closer to the few settlements on the sparsely populated islands, some 300 miles north of the Norwegian mainland.

Small quakes are quite common in Norway and rarely cause damage.

Herdis Lien, one of roughly 1,800 residents of Longyearbyen, said on the state radio network NRK that she was woken up by the earthquake.

"I woke up because my bed was shaking, and everything was rattling in the house," she said. "It was very unpleasant."

The Svalbard governor's office told NRK that there were no immediate reports of damage, possibly because virtually all buildings in Longyearbyen are built on pilings driven into the permafrost, which can withstand more shaking than conventional foundations.

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On the Net:

Norwegian seismic monitoring center: http://www.norsar.no

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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