Magnitude 7.1 earthquake shakes Alaska

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Courtesy: Pacific Northwest Seismic Network

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The magnitude 7.1 earthquake that rattled southern Alaska early Sunday morning could be followed by aftershocks for weeks.

The tremors sprung a natural gas leak, which led to several explosions in the town  of Kenai.

Kenai Fire Department battalion chief Tony Prior says the blasts destroyed two homes, but no one was hurt.

Two other houses were fully engulfed in flames by the time firefighters determined it was safe enough from gas for them to enter. The fire department focused on keeping the fires in these two homes from spreading to nearby houses.

About 30 homes total were evacuated in the Kenai neighborhood. Some people are staying at a shelter at the Kenai National Guard Armory.

Workers with the gas utility are examining the remaining homes to determine if the earthquake severed gas lines to the homes and are establishing temporary lines with the hope displaced residents can get back home Sunday.

Alaska State Seismologist Michael West says this is the largest earthquake in decades in this region of Alaska. He also says there’s been numerous smaller aftershocks, and those could continue for weeks.