Southern California was rocked by its largest earthquake in two decades on Thursday, a 6.4-magnitude tremblor that caused “substantial damage” at a military facility but otherwise only minor injuries in the sparsely populated area.
The shallow quake, followed by dozens of aftershocks, struck in the Mojave Desert 10 kilometres from the small city of Ridgecrest.
It was felt 260 kilometres away in Los Angeles and even as far afield as Las Vegas in the neighbouring 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 tremor along the San Andreas Fault that could devastate major cities in Southern California — President Donald 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.
The area “will continue having a lot of aftershocks,” some maybe as strong as magnitude five, California Institute of Technology seismologist Lucy Jones told a press conference.
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.
Thursday’s epicentre was in or on the edge of the US Navy’s sprawling desert bomb testing range known as China Lake.
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 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 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.”