Magnitude quake hits Southern California -- USGS

Magnitude quake hits Southern California -- USGS

The expert said today's natural disaster was the strongest one to hit southern California since a 7.1 quake struck in the area on October 16, 1999.

The temblor, which struck at around 1:30 pm EDT 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. The largest of them were magnitude 4.6.

"We are very much aware of the significant natural disaster that just occurred in Southern California".

The USGS said the quake, initially reported as a magnitude 6.6, was shallow - only 8.7 kilometres deep - which would have amplified its effect.

Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden said she had declared a state of emergency, a step that enables the town to receive help from outside agencies. We are moving items onto the floor and have turned off the gas supply.

Footage from Ridgecrest showed firefighters hosing down flames rising from homes. Residents in Coalinga, Hanford and Visalia also reported shaking.

Temperatures in the area were expected to climb to almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8°C) on Thursday, with extremely low humidity, the Weather Channel said.

It's pretty common. Southern California sees magnitude 6 earthquakes every three to five years on average, according to Lucy Jones, one of the world's foremost seismologists. It is the strongest quake to hit the region in 20 years.

"We were just panicked trying to get out of the house because everything was just falling out of the cabinets, off the shelves, off the walls, pictures".

"It was terrifying", she said.

The tremors, which were felt as far as Los Angeles, were quickly followed by several smaller aftershocks in the area. Many in the city noted how much longer this natural disaster felt than most. "I've never been in an natural disaster, certainly not on the air". Not jerky. Smooth and rolling. "It was just a little bit at first - I thought something was going by, and then I realized all the windows were rattling".

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The National Weather Service tweeted that the natural disaster was also felt in Las Vegas.

Though California is the most-populous state in the U.S., the quake was located in a sparsely populated portion of the Mojave Desert.

In 1994, at least 57 people died when a 6.7 quake hit the Northridge neighborhood of Los Angeles, causing $25 billion in damage.

In San Bernardino, the quake broke water mains, downed power lines, cracked buildings and caused rock slides, officials told ABC.

Dorothea Smith said boulders fell down hillsides, shattering the asphalt and blocking mountain roads.

The Kern County Fire Department said the Ridgecrest Regional Hospital was evacuated. All highways in San Bernardino County remain open.

The natural disaster started at around 10:30 a.m. local time and lasted for at least 30 seconds.

Other people shared photos of the damage on Twitter.

"Felt like we were on a turntable", user Rudio87 wrote.

There were no reports of serious damage or injuries in Los Angeles, the department said. "Operations remain normal", it tweeted.

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