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East Coast cleans up from rare earthquake

August 24, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
One day after a rare earthquake rattled the East Coast, structural engineers checked some of Washington, D.C.'s most iconic buildings for damage.

The 5.8-magnitude temblor was felt by more than 12 million people, from New England to New York, D.C. and South Carolina. Damage estimates are currently at $100 million.

The Diapasquale family was about to walk up to begin their tour of the Washington Monument but were hit by falling debris.

"It was coming straight down almost like a waterfall. ... It was really scary because I just kept thinking, this thing's going to fall down on us," said Valerie Diapasquale of Buffalo, N.Y.

The monument was cracked and closed indefinitely.

At the National Cathedral, spires started falling to the ground. Ann Griffiths from Claremont arrived to see it Wednesday, but engineers deemed it unsafe to enter.

"I'll be willing to give some money to help them rebuild," she said.

The worst damage was near the epicenter in Mineral, Va. Just to the south in Culpepper, Va., schools and businesses were closed as the cleanup continued. A nearby nuclear facility also remained shut down, as are most businesses and schools.

"I don't want to experience it again, that's for sure," said Damon Flynn from Ireland.

Seismologists say earthquakes are felt more intensely on the East Coast because of the difference in plates.

"California is fractured. When one fault line goes, the damage is limited to within a few miles. But the northeast moves as one gigantic block," said ABC News consultant Michio Kaku.

At the National Zoo, zookeepers said that lemurs felt the shaking almost 15 minutes before anyone else. Gorillas and elephants started acting out as well, but pandas just sat around like nothing was happening.


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