- Associated Press - Friday, September 9, 2011

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — A magnitude-6.4 earthquake struck Friday off the coast of British Columbia, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The quake struck 12:41 p.m. PDT (1941 GMT) at a depth of 14.3 miles (23 kilometers) about 173 miles (279 kilometers) west of Vancouver, the USGS said. The quake was initially reported to have a magnitude of 6.7 but was later downgraded by the USGS.

The quake’s epicenter just off the west coast of Vancouver Island, south of Port Hardy.

Stephen Halchuck, a seismologist with Natural Resources Canada, said the quake lasted for 20-30 seconds and rattled buildings across Vancouver Island and the southwest portion of British Columbia. He said there has been no immediate reports of damage in the region.

According to the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center no tsunami was expected.

“This event was not the type to generate a tsunami. It’s size was not large enough and the mechanism of the earthquake would not have generated a significant tsunami,” said Halchuck.

However, the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center advised that underwater landslides may cause “local tsunamis” at some coastal locations that experienced strong tremors.

Many in the small coastal community of Zeballos, is at sea level, felt the earth move under them.

“I was walking out of the office and started to feel the building shake, then the rumble of the earth move. And when that rumbling that comes up through your feet, you know right away, ‘oh, we’re having one of those,’” Holli Bellavie, the municipal administrator for Zeballos said in a telephone interview.

Bellavie said she waited for the aftershocks to ripple through but didn’t feel any.

Halchuck said he anticipates a number of aftershocks to hit British Columbia in the coming days but said they will likely be too small in scale to be felt.

“Each earthquake is unique and has it own aftershock sequence. Some have many thousands of aftershocks and some have only a few or none at all. In this case, we would expect to see some aftershocks, much smaller in size and they would decrease over time, some of which would be too small to be felt by people on land.”

Bellavie said the power in her building went out for a couple of minutes but there was no damage or injuries aside from co-workers who said dishes fell from cupboards and picture frames tumbled off shelves.

She said the village’s elementary school closed immediately and students were evacuated. Since Zeballos is at sea level, the region is set up to react quickly to tsunami warnings and earthquake evacuations.

There were also no immediate reports of damage in the closest parts of Washington state, including the northern tip of the Olympic Peninsula and the San Juan Islands.

As a precaution, the Washington state Transportation Department sent inspectors to check for damage at the Alaskan Way Viaduct, an aging elevated highway on the Seattle waterfront, as well as two other bridges.

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Associated Press writers Gene Johnson in Seattle and Charmaine Noronha in Toronto contributed to this report.