An image from the U.S. Geological Survey shows the earthquake centred on the Ontario/Quebec border.
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A 5.0 magnitude earthquake struck the Ontario-Quebec border Wednesday afternoon with tremors felt across the GTA and much of southern Ontario.
The earthquake struck at about 1:41 p.m., hitting the Ottawa area hardest but also hitting Toronto, causing many buildings to be evacuated.
The epicentre of the earthquake was 45 km north of Gatineau, Que.
No injuries have been reported yet but media and emergency services were immediately flooded with calls. The tremors shook for about 30 seconds. Here in Toronto the TTC and GO Transit are reporting business as usual. Everything is operational both services said.
In Ottawa, dozens of members of the national press gallery poured out onto the streets of Ottawa across from Parliament Hill as tremors shook the National Press Building. Public servants and political staffers also began to empty their offices.
Senator Art Eggleton was in the Senate chamber when the quake started the ornate chandeliers swaying. “Lots of shaking it was a severe shake,” said Eggleton, a former Toronto mayor.
“We kept hearing this noise initially and we thought it was construction but then the shaking kicked in,” he said.
“Someone yelled ‘get out’ and everyone headed for the exits,” Eggleton said, standing with a throng a people on the sidewalk outside the Wellington St. Senate offices.
“A few of my colleagues who have experienced this said this was the worst they’ve felt.”
Traffic in Ottawa quickly backed up, though streetlights continued to work.
Schools in the Ottawa area emptied, but students at one elementary school, Elmdale Public School, were quickly allowed back in.
Conservative House leader Jay Hill was standing outside East Block talking to Sen. Doug Finley. “It felt like a D9-Cat (a big buldozer) went by.”
“I figured it was an earthquake,” said Hill, who has experienced earthquakes in B.C.
“No goddamn earthquakes when the Liberals were in power,” wisecracked Liberal whip Roger Cuzner to Hill.
“We like to shake things up,” said Hill.
A geological fault line runs through the Ottawa Valley — part of the reason the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has insisted on rigorous checks and balances for the nuclear reactor in Chalk River.
The last big earthquake in the region was in October 1998 when an earthquake measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale struck southern Ontario.
In downtown Toronto hundreds of people elected to leave their downtown office towers after they realized what was happening, and some were ordered out.
“The chair was moving,” said Michel Laverdiere, an education officer who works for the Ontario Ministry of Education, on the 18th floor of the Mowat Block at Bay and Wellesley Sts.
“The director of my branch came out of his office and gave the order (to leave). No alarm was ringing. There was no panic. But we have someone in the office from China who said, ‘oh, that is an earthquake, right away.’”
Others in buildings right across the GTA were told to leave once the tremors struck. But some Toronto residents didn’t even know the earthquake had occurred and expressed surprise when they were told.
In the Islington Ave. and Bloor St. area, financial consultant Carol Malinas, who was in her office in the SunLife Financial Building, said the tremors made the floor beneath her shake. “You could feel it. And the computer monitor, the screen itself, started shaking. Easily a quarter of an inch. It was for about five seconds. I looked out at the girl beside me. Then everyone in the office stood up to look around and see what was happening.”
In the meantime, some are already joking about the earthquake and tremors, saying that if Quebec wanted to separate they were going a bit far and that many prefer their martinis stirred, not shaken.
Facts about the quake
Coordinates: 45.955°N, 75.546°W
Depth: 19.2 km
U.S.G.S. reports quake