Southern California rocked by strongest quake in two decades

Dunya News

A 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit Southern California on Thursday near the Searles Valley.

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Southern California was rocked by its largest earthquake in two decades on Thursday, but the 6.4-magnitude tremblor caused only "minor" injuries.

The shallow quake, which was followed by dozens of aftershocks, struck in a sparsely populated portion of the Mojave Desert, six miles (10 kilometers) from the city of Ridgecrest at 10:33 am (1733 GMT).

It was felt 160 miles away in Los Angeles and even as far afield as Las Vegas in the neighboring state of Nevada, as the United States celebrated its July 4 Independence Day holiday.

Although the quake in the most populous US state of California revived fears of the "Big One" -- a powerful tremblor along the San Andreas Fault that could devastate major cities in Southern California -- President Trump was quick to reassure that this wasn t it.

"All seems to be very much under control!" he tweeted two hours after the quake in the Searles Valley of San Bernardino County.

California Institute of Technology seismologist Lucy Jones told a press conference that residents "will continue having a lot of aftershocks," some maybe as strong as magnitude five.

The quake was the largest in Southern California since 1999 when a 7.1-magnitude quake struck the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps base, according to The Los Angeles Times.

David Witt, the fire chief in Kern County which includes Ridgecrest, reported "minor, minor injuries," stemming from broken glass and shelves falling down in supermarkets.

He was not able to provide an exact number of casualties.

Peggy Breeden, mayor of Ridgecrest which has a population of 28,000, said the local hospital had been evacuated as a precaution, and that she had received reports of a handful of house fires.

Some areas of the city had lost power, while gas had been cut due to ruptured lines, she said.

The San Bernardino County Fire Department, meanwhile, said that "buildings and roads have sustained varying degrees of damage."

This included "buildings with minor cracks, broken water mains, power lines down, rock slides on certain roads."

The quake struck at a depth of 6.6 miles (10.7 kilometers) in the vast desert region, lasting seconds.

Its epicenter was located in or on the edge of the US Navy s sprawling desert bomb testing range known as China Lake.

The Naval Air Weapons Station covers 1.1 million acres (445,000 hectares) and strictly controls the airspace above it. Inside, the Navy develops and tests missiles, bombs, artillery shells and other war ordnance, and the aircraft used to deliver it.

An official at China Lake said there was "substantial damage" to their facilities, including fires, water leaks and spills of hazardous materials.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said there was no significant damage there, while the city s international airport said its runways were unharmed, with operations continuing as normal.

Jones said there is a small possibility this quake is the prelude to a larger one.

"There is about a one-in-20 chance that this location will be having an even bigger earthquake within the next few days, that we have not yet seen the biggest earthquake of the sequence," she said.

"There have been hundreds of earthquakes today," she said, including more than 100 that the United States Geological Survey measured at greater than magnitude 2.5.

For filmmaker Ava DuVernay, a lifelong resident of Los Angles, "That was the longest earthquake I ve ever experienced. Not jerky. Smooth and rolling. But it was loooong."