March 18, 2020 / 3:57 PM / 20 days ago

Utah hit with 5.7-magnitude quake, flights to Salt Lake City airport halted

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March 18 (Reuters) - A 5.7-magnitude earthquake rocked Utah on Wednesday, knocking out the Western state’s coronavirus hotline, cutting off service to Salt Lake City’s airport and forcing the evacuation of a refinery, officials said.

The tremor was the strongest to hit Utah in 28 years, according to state emergency officials.

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

Governor Gary Herbert said the state’s poison control center at the University of Utah in the capital Salt Lake City was evacuated while officials assessed the damage, and he said the coronavirus hotline was down.

“Please stay away from the downtown area while crews assess damage. Unless you work in public safety, or are an essential employee, remain at home or telework,” the governor wrote on Twitter.

The quake struck at 7:09 a.m. MDT (1309 GMT) some 3.7 miles (6 km) north-northeast of Magna, Utah, at a depth of 7.3 miles (11.7 km) the U.S. Geological Survey reported, and was followed by a series of smaller aftershocks.

Magna lies just to the west of Salt Lake City.

“Road to the airport has been closed. Please do not come out 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 halted flights after the quake.

The FAA said it “has implemented a ground stop for (Salt Lake City) and is diverting inbound aircraft to other airports.”

Salt Lake City is the 23rd busiest U.S. airport and a hub for Delta Air Lines.

Marathon Petroleum Corp said its 61,000 barrel-per-day Salt Lake City refinery in Utah was evacuated after the quake.

“All employees and contractors are accounted for, and the earthquake had no impact on operations,” the company said. (Reporting by Daniel Trotta and David Shepardson Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

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