The west-facing side of the Washington Monument a day after an East Coast… (Molly Riley / Reuters )
Reporting from Washington — A closer inspection of the earthquake-damaged Washington Monument found about half a dozen more cracks, and the structure will be fenced off while engineers decide how to repair it, the National Park Service said Wednesday night.
The Lincoln and Jefferson memorials reopened one day after the East Coast's rare 5.8 temblor, but the Washington Monument will remain closed indefinitely.
Finished in 1884, the monument is one of the capital's most popular tourist attractions, with about 1,700 visitors going inside each day. It is the world's tallest obelisk, standing more than 555 feet high.
"The Washington Monument is one of America's most important landmarks, and we will do whatever it takes to ensure that it is restored completely and correctly," said Robert A. Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks.
"We will take whatever time is necessary to get it right," added park service spokesman Bill Line. "Public safety is paramount."
A day earlier, a U.S. Park Police helicopter crew spotted a crack 4 feet long and up to an inch wide in one of the stones near the top of the structure. The other cracks were discovered Wednesday during an inspection from the inside, a park service spokesman said.
The National Cathedral in Washington has also been closed because of earthquake damage. Three of its four pinnacles cracked and fell onto the roof.