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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kurils Hit By Large Earthquake

An earthquake measuring as high as 8.0 on the Richter scale and strong aftershocks rocked the Kuril Islands off Russia's Far East early Monday, prompting a temporary tsunami alert.


No damage or injuries were reported in the quake that occurred in the sea east of the Kurils, and the alert was called off later in the day when the sea level remained unchanged, Interfax reported.


Some coastal residents of the islands had been evacuated to higher ground, and ships left harbors for the open sea.


The seismic station in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, on Sakhalin Island, said the quake struck at about 5 a.m. local time and had a magnitude of 7.6. Japan's Central Meteorological Agency put it at 7.2, and said it was about 50 kilometers undersea.


Spokesman John Minsch of the U.S. National Earthquake Center, however, said the center had recorded the earthquake as measuring 8.0 on the open-ended Richter scale, which would make it a major seismic event outstripping all but a handful of history's most damaging quakes.


The Kurils experienced a quake of roughly similar magnitude in 1994 which killed 10 people, Minsch said.


The quake was centered about 100 kilometers east of Uturup, one of the string of Pacific islands, the Russian station said. It was followed by a series of aftershocks, one registering as high as 6.9, about 500 kilometers east of Uturup, Itar-Tass reported.


Seismic activity has increased in recent days around the Kuril Islands. On Sunday, a quake of magnitude 6.9 struck the same area. Five other quakes hit the region last week, but there were no reports of injuries or damages.


The disputed Kuril chain was seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II but is still claimed by Japan.


(AP, Reuters)