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27 February 2024

Most powerful earthquake recorded in Norway hits waters off Arctic Svalbard archipelago

By Agencies


The most powerful earthquake recorded in Norwegian territory hit the waters off the Arctic islands of Svalbard early Thursday, the national seismic monitoring center said. No damage was reported.

The earthquake, with a preliminary magnitude of 6.2, 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 keeping records about a century ago.

The US Geological Survey confirmed the magnitude of the quake was 6.2, but did not say whether it was a record for Norway.

The quake struck at 3:46 am (0246GMT), and was centred in the waters of Storfjord, about 140 kilometres southeast of Longyearbyen, the main settlement on Svalbard, Lindholm said.

He said there could be aftershocks, but there was little chance of them moving closer to the few settlements in the sparsely populated islands, some 500 kilometres north of the Norwegian mainland.

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 shaking, rather than conventional foundations. (AP)