The strongest earthquake to hit Southern California in 20 years came after a “swarmaggedon” of 1,000 small tremors last month – and experts warn an even bigger quake could hit the US state.
Witnesses described items falling off shelves “like missiles” and a quake that “wouldn’t stop” rattling buildings and cracking road surfaces.
Hollywood superstars are among those who have reported feeling the effects of the 6.4-magnitude quake on Thursday near the town of Ridgecrest, about 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Multiple injuries and two house fires were reported in the town, while emergency workers dealt with gas leaks and reports of cracked roads.
A state of emergency was declared in California’s Kern County and people in Ridgecrest Regional Hospital had to be evacuated.
Seismologist Lucy Jones said the quake was on a “strike-slip fault” about 10 miles from Ridgecrest and not on the dangerous San Andreas fault.
But she warned more quakes – including potentially bigger ones – were likely.
“This does not make [the big one] less likely,” Dr Jones told the LA Times.
“There is about a one in 20 chance that this location will be having an even bigger earthquake in the next few days, that we have not yet seen the biggest earthquake of the sequence.”
More than 100 aftershocks have been recorded since the 6.4 earthquake, including one of 4.5 magnitude, according to the United States Geological Survey.
April Rodriguez, who lives in the town of Trona, said she felt a smaller quake followed by a larger one “that didn’t stop”.
“We were panicked trying to get out of the house because everything is falling out of the cabinets, off the shelves, off the walls… they were flying like missiles off the shelves,” she told CNN.
The 6.4 quake reportedly hit as children were putting on a Fourth of July performance at Burroughs High School in Ridgecrest.
“The kids were crying and scared,” Vicki Siegel told the LA Times.
“I don’t know what kind of damage was done inside the building but we all got out. They probably all have PTSD now.”
Cynthia Alvarez, who works at a hotel in El Segundo, told the newspaper: “It wouldn’t stop. It just kept feeling like you were in a boat.”
Meanwhile, Cora Burke, a waitress at Midway Cafe in Ridgecrest, said: “It almost gave me a heart attack.
“It’s just a rolling feeling inside the building, inside the cafe and all of a sudden everything started falling off the shelf, glasses, the refrigerator and everything in the small refrigerator fell over.”
A host of celebrities including actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and singers Mariah Carey and Lana Del Rey reported feeling the effects of the earthquake.
US President Donald Trump tweeted: “Been fully briefed on earthquake in Southern California. All seems to be very much under control!”
The last time an earthquake above a magnitude of 6 struck Southern California was in 1999 when a 7.1 magnitude event – dubbed the Hector Mine quake – was recorded.
Fears of a large quake had grown recently after 1,000 small tremors were reportedly recorded in Southern California over three weeks.
The “swarmageddon” produced earthquakes with an average magnitude of 3 last month, the LA Times reported.
The 6.4 quake was felt throughout Los Angeles – as far north as Fresno and as far east as Las Vegas, Nevada.
It was even felt in Mexico, where buildings were evacuated in Tijuana and Mexicali.
About 20 million people live in the area affected by the quake, according to European quake agency EMSC.
Source: SKY NEWS