RIDGECREST, California: Emergency rescue crews fanned out yesterday to assess damage from the second powerful earthquake to hit Southern California in as many days – a 7.1 magnitude tremor that revived fears of the so-called Big One the region has feared for decades. No fatalities or serious injuries have been reported from this second quake, the largest in Southern California in more than two decades. It hit Friday night in a remote and sparsely populated area around 240 km northeast of Los Angeles, where it was also felt.
But the earth’s mighty twitch shook buildings, damaged roads and rattled people still jittery from a 6.4-magnitude earthquake in the same region on Thursday. Victor Abdullatif, owner of a small supermarket in the Mojave Desert town of Ridgecrest, pointed to huge piles of smashed wine bottles and other merchandise thrown to the floor by the quake as he walked through his store. “We’ve never seen anything like this, this is the biggest and most impactful quake that I’ve ever experienced,” he told AFP.
Two news presenters on local TV station KCBS looked distraught as the quake hit while they were on the air, gazing up repeatedly to see if anything was falling. “We are experiencing very strong shaking. I think we need to get under the desk,” one presenter said, then did just that as the station cut to a commercial. Around 3,000 people in Ridgecrest and the surrounding area are without power, the local utility company said.
In the town of Trona some buildings collapsed, gas pipelines ruptured and power was knocked out. Officials would know more as the day progresses, said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California governor’s Office of Emergency Services. There were “significant reports” of fires caused by gas leaks, as well as breaks to power, water and communications lines in the region, he told a press conference. The latest quake was 11 times stronger than the 6.4-magnitude quake “foreshock” the previous day, according to the United States Geological Survey.
The two major quakes, along with multiple aftershocks, have revived fears of the “Big One” – a powerful tremor along the San Andreas Fault that could devastate major cities in Southern California. “This is an earthquake sequence. These earthquakes are related,” said Caltech seismologist Lucy Jones. There was a 10 percent chance of Friday’s quake being followed by another magnitude 7.0 or higher quake in the next week, she added. Abdullatif, the shop owner, said he is holding off on cleaning up from the quake because of the warnings there could be yet more seismic activity. “The anxiety is definitely very high,” he said.
“It’s definitely a scary time.”
Terri Brantley, who lives in a mobile home in Ridgecrest, said the quake’s fury was stunning. He and his wife were in bed when it hit but they managed to get out. “It literally picked up the house in the air, and threw it to the west about three feet,” he told AFP. “I’ve experienced other quakes before, many times, but nothing like this. This was absolutely terrifying,” Brantley said.
Numerous gas leaks were reported near the epicenter, including in the towns of Trona and Argus. “Firefighters have secured leaks where possible and evacuated residents from homes with leaks that cannot be secured,” the San Bernardino fire department tweeted. In Los Angeles, the fire department deployed vehicles and helicopters, and reported fallen power lines and localized electricity outages.
But Mayor Eric Garcetti said there were no reports of serious damage in the city. Numerous visitors to Disneyland in Anaheim reported on Twitter that rides were shut for safety inspections after the quake. Patrons at movie theaters in the Los Angeles area evacuated due to the quake. “Everyone remained calm as the theater began to shake and then the shaking got stronger. We all headed to exits and down the stairs. No panic but one woman sobbing. This one was scary,” wrote NBC journalist Lester Holt on Twitter. No damage was reported at Los Angeles International Airport following inspections.
In Las Vegas, 150 miles east of the quake, an NBA summer league game was postponed when the tremor hit, causing the scoreboard and several overhead speakers to sway. The earthquake 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. – AFP