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OTTAWA (Reuters) - A moderate earthquake struck north of the Canadian capital Ottawa Wednesday, forcing thousands of people to flee their offices but causing relatively little minor damage.
There were no reports of injuries from the shallow 5.0 magnitude quake, but it startled residents in an area of North America where earthquakes are usually minor and rarely felt over a wide area. One bridge collapsed in Bowman, Quebec, near the epicenter of the quake.
The tremor was felt as far away as New York City, officials and witnesses said.
The quake, which also shook buildings in Toronto and Montreal, lasted between 25 and 30 seconds in Ottawa. It set off fire alarms and prompted many buildings in the city center to be evacuated, including Parliament Hill.
"All of a sudden the place started to shake. Someone yelled 'Get out' and we went. Everything was moving. Some of my colleagues have experienced quakes here before and said this was the worst one," Senator Art Eggleton told reporters.
The U.S. Geological Survey said it was a shallow quake, only 11.2 miles deep, and centered 33 miles north of Ottawa. Geologists initially measured the quake at magnitude 5.5.
A magnitude 5 quake is considered moderate in size. By contrast, the massive quake that struck Chile this year causing widespread damage and killed several hundred people was magnitude 8.8.
Earthquakes are occasionally reported in the Ottawa region, but they are usually felt only in the immediate area.
The New York City Office of Emergency Management said it had received reports of people feeling the effects of the Canadian earthquake. New York is about 330 miles south of Ottawa.
The event appears to have been centered in what geologists call the Western Quebec Seismic Zone, which usually produces minor earthquakes of magnitude 2 or 3, according to Laurent Godin, of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.
"Occasionally you'll get a (magnitude) 4 or 5 pop up out of there," Godin said.
Reporting by David Ljunggren, and Allan Dowd in Vancouver; editing by Rob Wilson