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Skyscrapers sway as quake rocks US east coast

The capital of the free world has experienced many a man-made shock in recent years - a major terrorist attack, serial sniper murders, an anthrax scare, not to mention a a brush with national debt default.

Yesterday, though, Washington DC received a rare and jarring shock at the hand of Mother Nature: a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that rattled structures, emptied the Capitol and other office buildings, and crashed local mobile phone networks.

The quake, whose epicentre was 83 miles away to the south west in rural Virginia, occurred shortly before 2pm local time at a depth of 3.7 miles.

The tremors were felt across the eastern US and along the Atlantic seaboard, from Toronto in Canada to the north to Atlanta, Georgia in the south. In New York, some skyscrapers swayed.

Overall, however, damage appears to have been be light.

A few minor injuries were reported, and plaster, tiles and bricks fell off some buildings, especially in Richmond, Virginia, the closest major metropolitan area.

And Mother Nature hasn't yet finished with Washington.

This weekend the mid-Atlantic region is likely to be at least brushed by Hurricane Irene, heading for the Bahamas, and set to be the most powerful storm of the season so far.

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