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Saturday 19 October 2019

Southern California jolted by biggest quake in 20 years

Residents have been warned to expect aftershocks for a number of days.

Damage suffered in Southern California after a 7.1-magnitude quake (AP)
Damage suffered in Southern California after a 7.1-magnitude quake (AP)

By John Antczak

The largest earthquake to hit Southern California in nearly 20 years has jolted an area stretching from Sacramento to Las Vegas to Mexico.

The 7.1-magnitude quake cracked buildings, started fires and wrecked roads, but only caused minor injuries.

Seismologists warned that large aftershocks are expected to continue for days, if not weeks.

The quake struck at 8.19pm on Friday and was centred 11 miles from Ridgecrest, the same area of the Mojave Desert where a 6.4-magnitude tremor hit just a day earlier.

Ridgecrest, already trying to recover from Thursday’s earthquake, took the brunt of the damage. Several thousand people there were without power, and there were reports of cracked buildings.

The quake cause a crack across the main road between Ridgecrest and Trona (James Quigg/The Daily Press/AP)

Local police chief Jed McLaughlin said two building fires – one involving a mobile home – were quickly extinguished.

There were several reports of natural gas leaks, but the supplies were shut off. Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Office of Emergency Services, said daybreak could show even more serious damage.

Local fire and police officials said they were initially swamped by calls for medical and ambulance service, but the police chief said there was “nothing but minor injuries such as cuts and bruises, by the grace of God”.

For the second time in as many days, Ridgecrest Regional Hospital wheeled patients out of the building, some still hooked to drips, CNN reported.

The quake ignited several fires across California (Jessica Watson/PA)

Nearby, the town of Trona, with about 2,000 residents, was reported to have at least one collapsed building. Roads were buckled or blocked, and police put out a call for bottled water for residents.

The State Route 178 road in Kern County was closed by a rock slide and had severe cracking.

In Los Angeles, 150 miles away, offices in skyscrapers rolled and rocked for at least 30 seconds.

Andrew Lippman, who lives in suburban South Pasadena, was sitting outside and reading a newspaper when Friday’s quake hit. He calculated it lasted 45 seconds.

“I could see power lines swaying,” he said.

Disneyland in Orange County and Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita closed their rides. Meanwhile, at the New York-New York hotel in Las Vegas, the Big Apple Coaster swayed as the earth moved.

An NBA Summer League game in Las Vegas was stopped after the quake. Speakers over the court at the Thomas & Mack Centre continued swaying more than 10 minutes after it was over.

In Los Angeles, the earthquake rattled Dodger Stadium in the fourth inning of the baseball team’s game against the San Diego Padres. But the game went on, and the Padres won 3-2.

Friday’s quake was followed by a series of large and small aftershocks, including a few above magnitude 5.0.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology and a former science adviser at the US Geological Survey, said Southern California can expect more significant shaking in the near future.

There is about a one in 10 chance that another 7.0 quake could hit within the next week, and the chance of a 5.0-magnitude quake “is approaching certainty,” she added.

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