Magnitude 4.8 earthquake hits New York City region

A 4.8-magnitude earthquake has struck near New York City, shaking buildings up and down the East Coast and surprising residents in an area that rarely experiences notable seismic activity.

The quake's epicentre on Friday morning was in Tewksbury in central New Jersey, about 65km west of New York City. It occurred just after 10.20am at a depth of, the US Geological Survey said

At 5.59 pm there was a small but noticeable aftershock, which had a magnitude of 4.0.

No major damage was reported, but engineering teams were inspecting roads and bridges.

"This is one of the largest earthquakes on the East Coast in the last century," New York Governor Kathy Hochul said at a news conference.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said no injuries had been reported but urged city residents to take cover under furniture, in a doorway or next to an interior wall if they felt aftershocks.

"New Yorkers should go about their normal day," he said at a news conference.

People from Baltimore to Boston reported feeling rumbling and shaking, with some running outside to try to detect the source.

Charita Walcott, a 38-year-old resident in the Bronx borough of New York, said the quake felt "like a violent rumble that lasted about 30 seconds or so".

"It was kind of like being in a drum circle, that vibration," she said.

James Pittinger, mayor of Lebanon, New Jersey, near the quake's epicentre, said there were no reports of injuries or significant damage but that people were unnerved.

"I was sitting in my home office when things started to fall off the walls and shelves," Pittinger said. 

"It was a crazy experience."

US President Joe Biden spoke with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy about the earthquake, and the administration will provide assistance if needed, the White House said in a statement.

At the United Nations in midtown Manhattan, the Save the Children CEO abruptly stopped addressing the Security Council on the Israel-Gaza conflict as cameras began shuddering.

"You're making the ground shake," Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour quipped.

Flights were held at area airports in the aftermath of the earthquake but had resumed by 12:30 pm, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Residual delays were expected.

A phone screen shows an emergency alert in New York City area after a magnitude 4.8 earthquake.

Friday's tremor was the largest felt in the city since a 2011 5.8-magnitude earthquake in Virginia that prompted evacuations of City Hall and other buildings and caused damage in Washington.

Earthquake magnitudes are measured on a logarithmic scale, which means the amount of energy released by a quake increases by more than 30 times for each whole number.

A 1989 earthquake that disrupted baseball's World Series and rocked San Francisco was measured at a 6.9 magnitude, which would have made it more than 1000 times more powerful than Friday's quake.

Earthquakes in the eastern US are felt across a far broader area because the bedrock is much older and harder, transferring seismic energy more easily, according to the USGS. The rocks in the western US are younger and contain more faults that absorb earthquake energy.

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