Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 August 2019

Strong earthquake sets off fires and damages desert city east of Los Angeles

Magnitude-6.4 earthquake hits city of Ridgecrest, damaging buildings and injuring residents

A cone indicates the localisation of a crack in the road after an earthquake near Ridgecrest shook Southern California, USA, 4 July 2019. EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT
A cone indicates the localisation of a crack in the road after an earthquake near Ridgecrest shook Southern California, USA, 4 July 2019. EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT

A powerful earthquake of magnitude 6.4 struck Southern California near the city of Ridgecrest, about 175 kilometres north-east of Los Angeles, the US Geological Survey said on Thursday.

The Kern County Fire Department said on Twitter it was working on “nearly two dozen incidents ranging from medical assistance to structure fires in and around the city of Ridgecrest”.

Parts of buildings were falling off and hitting people, and the city felt several aftershocks, Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breedon told CNN.

Ms Breedon said there were fires and broken gas lines.

“We are used to earthquakes but we’re not used to this significance,” she said.

The city has asked residents to look after each other, especially the elderly, who form a large part of the city’s population.

Ms Breedon said she had felt many quakes before but “not one like this long rolling” tremor.

She said she was driving when it happened and immediately slammed on her emergency brake.

The US survey said the quake, initially reported as magnitude 6.6, was very shallow at only 8.7km underground, which amplified its effects.

The tremor, which struck about 1:30pm in an area on the edge of Death Valley National Park, was felt throughout Los Angeles, as far north as Fresno and as far east as Las Vegas, Nevada.

It was even felt south of the border in Mexico, where buildings were evacuated in the towns of Tijuana and Mexicali, Baja State officials said.

The European quake agency EMSC said the quake was felt in an area inhabited by about 20 million people.

The epicentre was very close to Ridgecrest, a town with a population of more than 27,600 in the high desert.

The area is associated with the Eastern California Shear Zone and has suffered earthquake swarms in the past, including about 2,500 tremors over five weeks in the summer of 1995.

Thursday’s quake was quickly followed by many smaller aftershocks.

The area would be hit by many more aftershocks in the coming days, even a larger quake, seismologist Lucy Jones told CNN.

A magnitude 6.4 quake is capable of causing severe damage.

Thursday’s quake is the largest in Southern California since a 1994 magnitude-6.6 Northridge tremor, which was centred in a heavily populated area of Los Angeles and caused billions of dollars of damage.

Updated: July 5, 2019 04:27 AM

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