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Moderate 5.6 quake hits Oklahoma, rattling Midwest

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reutersOne of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded in Oklahoma rattled the state on Saturday morning, the United States Geological Survey said, and tremors were felt throughout the region.

The quake, which struck 14 km (9 miles) northwest of Pawnee in north-central Oklahoma at 7:02 a.m. CDT (1302 GMT), had a magnitude of 5.6, matching in strength a temblor that hit the state in 2011, the USGS reported on its website. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The earthquake, which was 6.6 km (4.1 miles) deep, could offer fresh ammunition to environmentalists concerned about the side-effects of widespread energy fracking, which has been blamed for a series of minor to moderate quakes in the region.

Pawnee Mayor Brad Sewell said the tremor lasted nearly a minute, far longer than previous tremors that have lasted only a second or two.

Part of the façade of an early 20th-century bank building had fallen into the street downtown but that was the only damage he knew of.

The mayor told Reuters he had yet to see other parts of town, which has about 2,200 residents, or assess damage to underground systems. No injuries have been reported.

“We have had a spate of quakes over the last several years, but nothing like this,” he said. “It was a long, sustained quake. … Clearly it was felt far and wide.”

The minor quakes are believed to have been connected to disposal wells from fracking.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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