Utah’s strongest earthquake in 28 years has halted Salt Lake City airport

(Reuters) – The most powerful earthquake that hit Utah in 28 years shut down Salt Lake City airport, eliminated a direct coronavirus line and forced the evacuation of a refinery on Wednesday, officials said.

FILE PHOTOS: the top of the Mormon temple is shown in Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, January 10, 2018. REUTERS / Mike Blake / File Photo

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

The 5.7-magnitude morning tremor, centered in north-central Utah, has been the strongest that the state has experienced since 1992, when a 5.9-magnitude earthquake rocked the St. George area in the south corner – western Utah, according to Utah Emergency Management.

The earthquake damaged the statue of Angel Moroni on top of the Salt Lake temple, the largest of the Mormon church, which knocked a trumpet from the angel’s hand. A church spokesman also said that some of the temple’s smaller spire stones have been moved, according to the Deseret News.

Utah has a large Mormon population and occupies a special place in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In Herriman, just south of the capital Salt Lake City, the bricks of the facade of the Silver Crest Elementary School fell in front of the main entrance.

Cracks appeared on the brick facade of a Salt Lake City bank building and rubble appeared on the sidewalk in front of an unoccupied building under construction, as shown by social media images.

Governor Gary Herbert said the state poison control center at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City was evacuated as officials assessed the damage and said the coronavirus hotline was inactive.

“Please stay away from the center while the crews assess the damage. Unless you work in public security or are an essential employee, stay at home or telecommute, “wrote the governor on Twitter.

The Utah Department of Health said it had set up a temporary hotline for coronavirus information.

The quake struck 7:09 am MDT (1309 GMT) about 6 km northeast of Magna, Utah, at a depth of 11.7 km (7.7 km), according to reports from the US Geological Survey followed by a series of small aftershocks.

Magna is located just west of Salt Lake City.

“The road to the airport has been closed. Please don’t come to the airport, ”the Salt Lake City airport posted on Twitter.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it had evacuated the air traffic control tower at Salt Lake City international airport and had stopped flights, diverting arriving aircraft to other airports.

The FAA Salt Lake air traffic control center, which is housed separately from the airport’s control tower, is handling all air traffic in the area, the agency said.

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Salt Lake City is the 23rd busiest airport in the United States and a hub for Delta Air Lines.

Marathon Petroleum Corp said that the Salt Lake City refinery in Utah, 61,000 barrels per day, was evacuated after the earthquake.

“All employees and contractors are accounted for and the earthquake has had no impact on operations,” said the company.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta and David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis

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