New England earthquake map
Southern New England was hit by the strongest earthquake in the region for decades. It rattled homes but did not cause any significant damage.

At 9am on Sunday, the area was hit by a 3.6 magnitude earthquake that was centered in Buzzards Bay, off the coast of New Bedford, Massachusetts, according to the US Geological Survey's National Earthquake (USGS) information centre.

The earthquake hit the area at a depth of around 9.3 miles and was felt in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and as far away as Long Island, New York.

It was the strongest to have hit the area since 1976, when a magnitude 3.5 earthquake was recorded, USGS geophysicist Paul Caruso told the Associated Press.

The agency's website recorded around 14,000 visitors in the hours after the earthquake, with people from 100 miles away reporting the incident.

Mr Caruso said it is not unusual for earthquakes in New England to be felt that far away.

"It's common for them to be felt very far away because the rock here is old and continuous and transmits the energy a long way," he said.

Ali Kenner Brodsky, who lives in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, which is not located far from the epicentre of the earthquake, told the AP that she was sitting in her kitchen talking with her son, when it hit.

"It was a rumbling. It sounded like something exploded. It rumbled. The whole house shook," she said.

Ms Brodsky told the AP that the earthquake lasted for about 10 to 15 seconds, and added: "In that moment, it feels like it's going on forever."

Chris Besse, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said it had not received any reports of significant damage, although there were some reports of minor incidents.

The police in Fall River tweeted about the earthquake, and revealed that it had received several phone calls from local residents reporting that street signs had become uprooted in the incident.

Mr Caruso said that 3.6 magnitude earthquakes rarely cause any major damage.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press