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Earthquake jolts Queens

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An earthquake hit Queens Tuesday afternoon, rattling businesses and homes in a tremblor that sent workers fleeing from buildings in downtown Manhattan and stretched along the East Coat from North Carolina to Boston.

The epicenter of the 5.9 quake was near Richmond, Va. There were no immediate reports of injuries or serious property damage.

In Bayside, the sturdy buildings on Bell Boulevard swayed back and forth for about 20 seconds at 1:51 p.m. and soon after the shaking stopped, several groups of alarmed people gathered on the street.

Evan Kragouras came into Bayside from his home in Bethpage, L.I., to get a haircut Tuesday afternoon at Dimitri’s Hair Design on Bell Boulevard,

“At first it felt like I had vertigo. I felt a little panicky, and then we came outside,” he said. “We weren’t sure what was happening because New York isn’t known for its earthquakes.”

Queens Village resident Tanya Alvarez said she went straight downstairs when she felt the tremor while working at TBO Sitescapes in a second-floor Bayside office.

“We were upstairs, and I thought my neighbor was kicking the door down or banging on the wall,” she said. “Oh, my God, it’s so scary. My boss said, ‘Go back to work,’ but if it happens again, I’m going home.”

In Forest Hills, the quake shook the ground near the Kew Gardens Community Center.

Meanwhile, in Manhattan members of the press and lawyers fled from the eighth floor of the Manhattan district’s attorney office, where a news conference was starting on the prosecutors’ decision to drop sexual assault charges against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. City Hall was evacuated and several court houses were emptied after the quake rumbled through.

Breaking News Network reported that John F. Kennedy International Airport was closed shortly after the quake.

A spontaneous Facebook group formed called Long Island Earth Quake, where a member posted a message that the control tower at Kennedy Airport was temporarily shut down.

News reports said the quake had rippled through communities up and down the East Coast on an otherwise calm summer afternoon.

Back in Bayside, one man expressed his own unconventional interpretation of the seismic event as he walked along Bell Boulevard shortly after it took place.

“Moammar Gadhafi just landed on the Long Island Rail Road tracks,” he said.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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