Back-to-back earthquakes rocked buildings and shattered roads in Anchorage, sending people running into the streets and briefly triggering a warning to residents in Kodiak to flee to higher ground for fear of a tsunami.
The US Geological Survey said the first and more powerful quake was centred about 12 kilometres north of Anchorage, which has a population of about 300,000.
The Trans Alaska Pipeline, one of the longest crude oil pipelines in the world, was shut down as a precautionary measure so crews could inspect the system, but returned to service after no damage was found.. There were then multiple aftershocks in the region, with one as high as 5.1-magnitude.
The quake was so large it felt up to 400 miles outside of Anchorage and damage reports were starting to come into the Alaska Earthquake Information Center.
"Many homes and buildings are damaged", the police department said in a statement.
"The most striking thing about this event was that it was so close to Anchorage", Hayes said.
At around 8:30 a.m. on Friday morning, Alaskans felt a large quake that shook South Central. "But we know that a tragedy of this magnitude is going to require outside resources", she said.
On March 27, 1964, Alaska was hit by a 9.2 quake, the strongest recorded in USA history, centred about 75 miles (120 kilometres) east of Anchorage. He said lights on the control board were blinking and things were falling from the ceiling.
And President Donald Trump late Friday declared an emergency, which allowed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.
Concerns about possible structural damage led the Anchorage school district to cancel classes next week.
A stream of photographs and videos have since been shared on social media, showing the devastation that is being wrought after the quake hit the area, with people being evacuated.
Alaska's 1964 quake, with a 9.2 magnitude, was centred about 75 miles (120 kilometres) east of Anchorage. He said he wondered if Friday's quake "could be the one".
The reason Alaska sees so many earthquakes is because the 49th state sits over a major fault line between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates.
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