Communities in Southern California were bracing for hundreds of aftershocks Saturday after the region was rattled by two of the largest earthquakes felt there in two decades, resulting in multiple fires, punctured water and gas lines and infrastructure damage.
Seismologists warned of large aftershocks following Friday’s 7.1-magnitude tremor, which happened just after 8 p.m. local time. The quake was centered 11 miles from Ridgecrest, the site where a 6.4-magnitude tremor hit a day earlier.
The aftershocks are expected to last days, if not weeks.
The rumbling on Friday was felt as far away as Las Vegas and Mexico. No fatalities were reported in either quake, police said, but the California National Guard was sending 200 troops, along with logistical support and aircraft, to affected areas.
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Ridgecrest, a city of about 28,000 people sandwiched between Southern California and Las Vegas, experienced two fires that were quickly extinguished.
April Hamlin, a Ridgecrest resident, said she thought Friday’s quake was another aftershock. She was wrong.
“But it just kept on intensifying,” she said. “The TV went over, hanging by the cord. We heard it break. We heard glass breakage in the other rooms, but all we could do was stay where we were until it stopped.”
The second quake resulted in the postponement of several NBA Summer League games being played in Las Vegas. Play was stopped Friday night during the fourth quarter of a game between the New York Knicks and the New Orleans Pelicans at the Thomas & Mack Center, where the scoreboard swayed and the structure shook.
League play was expected to resume Saturday.
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In Los Angeles, about 150 miles southwest of Ridgecrest, the quake rattled Dodger Stadium in the fourth inning of the team’s game against the San Diego Padres. There were no reports of serious damage in and around Los Angeles.
Scientists said the initial quake on Independence Day and its small aftershocks were actually foreshocks to Fridays larger tremor, which is the most powerful since a 7.1 quake shook the Mojave Desert in 1999.
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Around 500 small aftershocks were recorded as of Saturday morning, according to the United State Geological Survey.
Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the California Institute of Technology, said the chances of another 7.0 quake hitting the region within the week was one in 20.
The chance of a 5.0 is “approaching certainty,” she said.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday requested federal assistance and the Office of Emergency Services was placed on high alert.
“I have determined that the damages caused by the July 4 and 5 earthquakes are of such severity and magnitude that continued effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments,” Newsom wrote in a letter to President Trump.
In addition to fires and structural damage, Ridgecrest suffered water-main breaks and power and communications outages. Authorities have reported thefts from some businesses, Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden said.
She said some “bad people” tried stealing items from local businesses after the quake, and Police Chief Jed McLaughlin said “a very expensive piece of equipment [was] stolen” from one business. A 30-mile stretch of highway on State Route 178 between Ridgecrest and Trona, a nearby city of about 2,000, was also closed off because of rock slides and road cracking.
A tweet from Newsom’s office on Saturday said the Democratic governor was headed to Ridgecrest to asses quake damage and speak with residents.
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Antoun Abdullatif, 59, said much of his inventory from his liquor stores and other businesses in Ridgecrest and Trona was destroyed.
“I would say 70 percent of my inventory is on the floor, broken,” he said Saturday morning in Ridgecrest. “Every time you sweep and you put stuff in the dustbin, you’re putting $200 in the trash.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.