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Heavy damage but no deaths as 6.0 quake strikes rural Nevada

February 22, 2008|From the Associated Press

WELLS, NEV. — A strong earthquake rocked this rural northeastern Nevada town early Thursday, damaging hundreds of homes, rupturing gas and water lines, and felling brick building facades in the mostly unoccupied historical district.

No serious injuries were reported after the magnitude-6.0 quake jolted the high-desert town awake at 6:16 a.m. and rumbled across much of the West.

Elko County commissioners declared a state of emergency in Wells, where about 25 buildings in the historical district were "heavily damaged," Sheriff's Sgt. Kevin McKinney told the Associated Press.

"It was like a bomb went off," said County Commissioner Mike Nannini, who was standing in the middle of the 4 Way Casino & Cafe when the quake began.

"The walls and ceilings started coming down. Almost all of the businesses are shut down. We have no services and no fuel," he said at an emergency meeting of the county commissioners.

Tom Turk, a state spokesman at the scene, said that almost every one of the 700 residential structures in town had some damage.

"It just immediately jumped into rattling the walls," said Donna Anderson, who was at the Wagon Wheel residential motel her father built 50 years ago when the quake hit.

"I wasn't terribly scared, but it felt like everything was just going to crumble down around us," Anderson said.

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons said after touring the area Thursday afternoon that several buildings in the historic district had been reduced to "bricks and mortar and foundations."

"But people are safe. We have three minor injuries, no deaths," Gibbons said.

"I think we were just blessed that Mother Nature struck when it did . . . rather than some time later on when the people would be out and about and the sidewalks might have had more people on them when these structures came down," he said.

The temblor, centered in a sparsely populated area six to 12 miles east of Wells, was felt from northern Idaho and Utah to Southern California, officials said. As many as 30 aftershocks were reported.

"It was scary, the scariest thing ever," said Karen Swabb, who lives southeast of Wells in Clover Valley.

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