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States practice earthquake readiness

April 28, 2011 at 1:55 PM   |   Comments

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., April 28 (UPI) -- About 3 million people stopped, covered and held on Thursday in the first multi-state U.S. earthquake drill related to the New Madrid fault.

Residents of 11 states participated in the Great Central U.S. Shakeout to practice stop-cover-hold-on techniques to use in case of an earthquake, the ShakeOut.org Web site reported.

The ShakeOut comes two centuries after earthquakes rattled southeast Missouri, changing the course of the Mississippi River, and is especially timely in the wake of the deadly March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Craig Fugate, Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, told USA Today.

"The earthquake in Japan reminds of just how powerful Mother Nature can be," Fugate said.

Near the New Madrid fault, Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau will practice by sounding alarms inside buildings and outdoors, said Denise Schmidt, a senior who helped organize the campus drill.

"A lot of students don't know what to do if we have an earthquake," Schmidt said, adding that watching the coverage of Japan's quake made her "want to know if it's something that could happen here soon."

The 1811 and 1812 earthquakes in the New Madrid, Mo., area weren't too devastating because the area was sparely populated, Michael Blanpied, associate coordinator of the U.S. Geological Survey's earthquake hazards program, told USA Today. Now, however, a similar 7-magnitude quake "will cause damage and will cause disruption."

The New Madrid fault stretches from Arkansas to Tennessee and Kentucky, and from Illinois and Indiana to Mississippi.

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