Magnitude 6.4 earthquake hits Alaska oil producing North Slope

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – A 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck near the village of Kaktovik, Alaska on Sunday and is part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where the Trump government is drilling for oil but has not reported any injuries or damage ,

The Temblor, which took place just before 7 am (1500 GMT), was the most powerful since the beginning of oil production in North Slope, said Paul Huang, seismologist and deputy director of the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska.

No tsunami warning was generated, though ground movement was perceived as far away as Fairbanks, Alaska, nearly 400 miles (644 km) south.

The quake did not affect the operation of the Trans-Alaska pipeline system, which transports the 1330-kilometer North Slope pipeline to the Naval Base in Valdez, according to Alyeska, the consortium that operates the pipeline.

Alyeska said it will conduct follow-up investigations of the pipeline and related facilities. Inspector teams also found nothing in the Prudhoe Bay oil field about 137 miles (137 miles) east, said Megan Baldino, spokeswoman for BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc, which operates the field.

The earthquake, initially measured at 6.5, was followed by a series of aftershocks, the largest of which, according to the US Geological Survey, was a 6.0 tremor.

The main quake was centered 64 km southwest of Kaktovik, an Inupiat village of about 260 inhabitants on the northern edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Government officials said they had no reports of damage, but locals in Kaktovik said the trembling had not gone unnoticed.

"I felt a bit shivering and felt dizzy feeling the shelves tremble," said Archie Brower, deputy manager of Kaktovik Kikiktak's grocery store.

The epicenter is also near an area that the US Department of the Interior for Oil Exploration plans to lease along ANWR's coastal plain, which was closed to fossil fuel development until a provision was issued as part of President Donald Trump's tax code.

The vast and ecologically unspoilt coastal plain, wedged between the Beaufort Sea and the Brooks Range Mountains, is considered to be of importance for caribou, polar bears and other wildlife, but is said to contain billions of barrels of oil.

"Scientifically, however, this region is poorly understood and the behavior of the disruption or faults responsible for today's earthquake is unknown," the Alaska Earthquake Center in Fairbanks said in a bulletin.

Strong earthquakes are not uncommon in seismically active Alaska, but are more likely to occur in remote, sparsely populated areas where little or no damage occurs.

Report by Yereth Rosen in Anchorage; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

Our standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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