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Strong Earthquake Shakes Southern California

Hospital workers set up equipment outside the Ridgecrest Regional Hospital after a powerful earthquake struck Southern California in the city of Ridgecrest, California, July 4, 2019.

Updated at 9:29 p.m., July 4.

A magnitude-6.4 earthquake rocked southern California on Thursday morning, jolting residents of the region and resulting in several fires and minor injuries in the town of Ridgecrest, 180 kilometers (112 miles) northeast of Los Angeles. Aftershocks continue to shake the region.

Thousands were left without power near the epicenter after the quake struck at 10:33 a.m. local time, and one home was partly consumed by flames.

California earthquake locator map (Credit: USGS)
California earthquake locator map (Credit: USGS)

"We've had multiple injuries," Kern County Fire Chief David Witt told reporters. "We've had two house fires. We've had small vegetation fires, power lines down, gas leaks, the associated events that take place after you have a large earthquake."

Patients were evacuated from the local hospital, but its emergency room stayed open.

Seismologists say the seismic rupture occurred just 9 kilometers beneath the Earth's surface, which amplified its effect.

More than 100 aftershocks have shaken the region since the initial jolt. Experts say more are likely.

"There is about a 1-in-20 chance that this location will be having an even bigger earthquake within the few days," said seismologist Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena, California.

Magnitude 6.4 Earthquake Shakes Southern California
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President Donald Trump, about to participate in July 4th Independence Day celebrations in Washington, D.C., tweeted that the situation in California was under control.

This was the largest earthquake to strike Southern California in 20 years, but experts say a number of quakes of similar size typically occur there in every decade. The region has simply experienced a lull.

The most destructive in recent memory came in 1994, when a 6.7-magnitude temblor struck the Northridge neighborhood of Los Angeles, killing 57 people and causing billions of dollars in damage.

Thursday's quake struck a thinly populated desert community, so the damage was limited, seismologist Jones said.