US quake damage reaches £1.3bn

Friday, March 02, 2001
The damage estimate from the earthquake in the north-western US has climbed to $2b as engineers inspected bridges, buildings, dams and roads.

Most people went about their lives as usual, swapping stories about close calls during the most powerful quake to hit Washington state in 52 years.

State emergency officials counted 320 injuries directly linked to Wednesday's 6.8-magnitude quake, but most were minor and none critical.

Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington state, said the $2bn (about £1.3bn) preliminary damage estimate is expected to rise once lost wages and lost business are added to property damage.

"The biggest news is there is no news," Seattle Mayor Paul Schell said. "There aren't any fatalities. The damage, while serious, is not anything like what people would have expected."

The Bush administration declared the quake a federal disaster last night within hours of Governor Gary Locke's request. The action paves the way for federal aid, such as low-interest loans, to rebuild.

The earthquake was centred 35 miles south west of Seattle and 33 miles underground. Scientists say the depth of the quake eased its impact, while local authority chiefs said the millions of dollars spent stabilising the region's highways and buildings against earthquakes over the past decade paid off.