‘Violent rumble’: 4.8 magnitude earthquake rattles New York City, northeast

No casualties were immediately reported as rare quake shakes densely populated city of 8.3 million.

NEw York City
Officials say an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.8 shook densely populated New York City [File: Ted Shaffrey/The Associated Press]

A 4.8 magnitude earthquake rattled the northeastern US Friday morning, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said, sending tremors along the Atlantic coast between Boston and Philadelphia.

The quake’s epicentre was about 45 miles (72km) west of New York City in Lebanon, New Jersey, rocking buildings in densely populated Manhattan and throughout the five boroughs. As many as 45 million people may have felt the shocks, according to the USGS.

Still, no casualties or major structural damage were immediately reported after the 10:23am local time (14:23 GMT) earthquake, according to the New York City Fire Department.

In a post on the social media platform X, the New York City mayor’s office said it was still “assessing the impact”. Authorities were scheduled to hold a news conference at 12pm local (16:00 GMT) to provide updates.

Meanwhile, the NYC Emergency Management agency urged anyone “in danger” to call the emergency 911 number, and to report any other non-emergency impacts to the city’s services hotline.

A spokesman for NYC Public Schools said that teams were assessing school building facilities out of “an abundance of caution”.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said it was temporarily closing the Holland Tunnel, an arterial commuter route connecting New Jersey and Manhattan, for inspection.

Some flights bound for New York were also diverted to other airports, according to the tracking website FlightAware.

Residents of the city reported feeling their buildings shake for several minutes.

“I noticed the door trembling on its frame,” India Hays, a barista in lower Manhattan, told The Associated Press news agency. “I thought surely there couldn’t be an earthquake here.”

Charita Walcott, a 38-year-old resident in the Bronx borough, said the quake felt “like a violent rumble that lasted about 30 seconds or so.”

“It was kind of like being in a drum circle, that vibration,” she told the Reuters news agency.

At the United Nations in midtown Manhattan, Save the Children CEO Janti Soeripto abruptly stopped an address to the Security Council on the war in Gaza.

“You’re making the ground shake,” Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour quipped.

People in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Connecticut and other areas of the Northeast also reported feeling the quake, with tremors lasting for several seconds felt more than 200 miles (322km) away near the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border.

In a post on X, New York governor Kathy Hochul said she had been in touch with the White House, which said that President Joe Biden had also been briefed.

For its part, the USGS noted that “earthquakes are uncommon but not unheard of along the Atlantic Coast”. There is no active tectonic plate boundary along the coast, “but there are stresses,” it said in a post on X.

The earthquake evoked memories of an August 23, 2011, earthquake that jolted tens of millions of people along the Atlantic coast from Georgia to Canada.

That earthquake registered at a magnitude 5.8 and was the strongest to hit the East Coast since World War II.

The epicentre of that earthquake was in Virginia. It left cracks in the Washington Monument, spurred the evacuation of the White House and the US Capitol and rattled New Yorkers.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies