Powerful earthquakes strike Pohang; tremors felt across the country

/ Captured from the United States Geological Survey

– 5.4-magnitude earthquake struck Pohang at 2:29 p.m., preceded by minor quakes and followed by others including a 4.6-magnitude quake

– Seven sustained minor injuries; fire departments responded to 42 rescues; over 7,000 calls were made to the emergency hotline 911

– Concrete debris, iron beams and glass fell onto streets, destroying parked vehicles, brick walls and electricity poles

– The quakes didn’t affect nuclear reactors that are concentrated in the nation’s southeastern region

– Handong Global University students evacuated as walls of one of the campus buildings crumbled

– With the nation’s college entrance exam scheduled only a day after, concerned voices said whether the annual test should be postponed

By Park Si-soo, Ko Dong-hwan

A series of powerful earthquakes struck the southeastern city of Pohang Wednesday, shaking many parts of the country, including Seoul nearly 300 kilometers away.

The first major quake ― of 5.4-magnitude ― struck Pohang at 2:29 p.m., while an aftershock of 3.6-magnitude followed minutes later, the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) said. Another aftershock of 3.6-magnitude happened at 3:09 p.m.

The epicenter was measured about nine kilometers north of Pohang and nine kilometers beneath the surface, the state weather agency said.

Nuclear reactors in Ulsan, some 80 kilometers south of Pohang, are operating normally with no sign of radiation leaks, Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power said.

As of 3 p.m. in Pohang, four people had sustained minor injuries and fire departments had responded to 21 rescues.

Photos from the city showed concrete debris, tiles, iron beams and glass falling onto streets, destroying parked vehicles, brick walls and electricity poles.

Handong Global University students evacuated the campus as they watched walls of a building crumble.

People in Seoul reported they felt furniture and light fixtures shaking.

Busan, Gyeongju and many other cities near Pohang felt stronger tremors. Video footage residents sent to cable news network YTN showed objects on shelves dropping to the floor following the quake. Some reported their portable devices went temporarily out of service.

The KMA said the 5.4-magnitude quake was preceded by two minor tremors of 2.2 and 2.6-magnitude.

South Korea’s southeastern region is prone to earthquakes, with seven fault lines across North and South Gyeongsang provinces. In 2016, the North Gyeongsang Province city of Gyeongju experienced a magnitude-5.8 earthquake on Sep. 12. It was the biggest among quakes that have occurred since 1978.

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