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By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Nov. 1) – Halloween on Saipan was a little scarier at 1:30 p.m. yesterday when an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter scale jolted residents.

"It was scary because we felt the building move and it was continuing and we felt it pretty strongly so we ran out," said U.S. Probation Officer Maggie Wonenberg who is among the federal employees whose offices are in the Horiguchi Building in Garapan.

Wonenberg was on the second floor conducting a teleconference interview with their main office on Guam when they felt "the shake," and heard the clerk of court telling everybody to vacate the building.

"It was pretty scary," she said, adding that she was not able to call home because she left her purse with her cell phone and everything in it in the office.

"My kids were at school and I wondered if I could give them a call," she said.

A court security officer said they had to keep everybody outside until they got official word that it was safe to go back inside.

[PIR editor’s note: An earthquake measuring 8.2 on the Richter scale did major damage to buildings and roadways on Guam in 1993, though no lives were lost.]

U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands Chief Judge Alex Munson drove all the way to the Emergency Management Office on Capitol Hill to get himself a copy of the earthquake advisory.

The earthquake had a duration of 22 minutes but it was felt on island for only about 10 seconds, Emergency Management Office said.

It gave the agency the chance to test its newly installed emergency alert system which was activated in a matter of 7 minutes from the moment the earthquake was detected, according to Emergency Management Office acting Director Mark S. Pangelinan.

He said once activated, the alert system transmits the information to all radio stations on island.

"It worked out pretty well," he said.

A bulletin issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center stated, "A destructive tsunami was not generated based on earthquake and historical tsunami data."

Pangelinan said Emergency Management Office’s staffers were still sent out to the field to monitor the sea level off Tank Beach, Marine Beach, Wing Beach and Coral Ocean Point.

The seismic division’s Juan T. Camacho, for his part, monitored the aftershock.

The U.S. Geological Survey, in its preliminary report, said the location of the epicenter was 253 miles north of Saipan and 57 miles north-northwest of Pagan.

Pangelinan said the public should not panic during an earthquake, and if there is ever a need to evacuate, "do it in a safe manner."

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