Strong quake strikes Nevada’s gold country

By | February 22, 2008

Strong quake strikes Nevadas gold country

A strong earthquake in northeastern Nevada badly damaged the historic center of a remote town and injured several people at dawn on Thursday, but nearby mining operations were only briefly disrupted. The 6.0 magnitude quake near the town of Wells damaged an estimated 400-700 homes, the high school and some churches, said Gary Derks, operations officer for the Nevada Division of Emergency Management.

The main street dating from the late 1800s suffered the most as ceilings collapsed, windows broke and bricks fell. Although many of its saloons, markets and banks are no longer used, officials had talked about reviving the area.

“The historic district is pretty much done for,” said City Manager Jolene Supp.

Sparsely populated northwest Nevada is home to the most prolific gold mining region in the Western hemisphere. Mines quickly resumed their round-the-clock operations even as dozens of aftershocks hit throughout the day.

About 50 miners were underground some 100 miles (160 km) from the epicenter when the quake hit but they evacuated without incident, said Mary Korpi, a spokeswoman for Newmont Mining Corp (NEM.N: Quote, Profile, Research).

In Wells, one man broke an arm, another had cuts to the head and a third person had trouble breathing, said Kevin McKinney in the Elko County Sheriff’s Department.

All commercial establishments in Wells were closed. The ceiling fell in the only grocery store, leaving a smell of alcohol from broken bottles. Paint spilled across the floor in the hardware store next door.


Many residents viewed the damage as just part of life on a rugged frontier of the American West.

“It’s Mother Nature, what good would it do to be upset?” said Mitch Smith, owner of the hardware store. “We’ve already decided to have a ‘half off’ sale on dented cans of paint.”

The quake struck at 6:16 a.m. PST (1416 GMT), with a shallow epicenter 6.2 miles (10km) deep.


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