Earthquakes a ‘wakeup call’, says California Governor

RIDGECREST, California (AP) — The two major earthquakes that hit Southern California should alert people across the nation of the need to be prepared for natural disasters, the state’s governor said, as officials expressed relief that the damages weren’t worse.

Governor Gavin Newsom said last Saturday that governments must strengthen alert systems and building codes, and residents should make sure they know how to protect themselves during an earthquake.

“It is a wake-up call for the rest of the state and other parts of the nation, frankly,” Newsom said at a news conference to update the public on the state’s efforts to help the region hit by earthquakes last Thursday and last Friday.

Last Friday’s earthquake was the largest one in Southern California in nearly 20 years. Officials voiced concerns about the possibility of major aftershocks in the days and even months to come.

No fatalities or major injuries were reported after the 7.1-magnitude quake, which jolted an area from Sacramento to Mexico and prompted the evacuation of the Navy’s largest single landholding, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in the Mojave Desert.

California Governor Gavin Newsom makes a statement after touring a town in Ridgecrest, California. – AP

The quake struck at 8.19pm last Friday and was centred 18 kilometres from Ridgecrest, the same area of the desert where a 6.4-magnitude temblor hit last Thursday. It left behind cracked and burning buildings, broken roads, obstructed railroad tracks and leaking water and gas lines.

The light damage was largely due to the remoteness of the area where the earthquake occurred, but Newsom cautioned after touring Ridgecrest that “it’s deceiving, earthquake damage. You don’t notice it at first”.

Newsom estimated more than USD100 million in economic damages and said United States (US) President Donald Trump called him to offer federal support in the rebuilding effort.

“He’s committed in the long haul, the long run, to help support the rebuilding efforts,” Newsom said of Trump.

Only 28,000 people live in the Ridgecrest area, which is sandwiched between more populated areas of Southern California and Las Vegas’ Clark County. But seismologists warned that the area could see up to 30,000 aftershocks over the next six months.

April Hamlin said she was “already on edge” when the second quake rattled her Ridgecrest home. She and her three kids initially thought it was another aftershock.

“But it just kept on intensifying,” Hamlin said. “The television 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.”

With the possibility of aftershocks and temperatures forecast to reach 38 Celsius over the next several days, officials were taking precautions.

The California National Guard was sending 200 troops, logistical support and aircraft, Major General David Baldwin said. The Pentagon had been notified, and the entire California Military Department was put on alert, he said.