Strongest quake in 20 years rattles California

LOS ANGELES (AP) – The strongest earthquake in 20 years shook a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada on the July 4th holiday, rattling nerves and causing injuries and damage in a town near the epicentre, followed by a swarm of ongoing aftershocks.

The 6.4 magnitude quake struck at 10.33am on Thursday in the Mojave Desert, about 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles, near the town of Ridgecrest, California.

Multiple injuries and two house fires were reported in the town of 28,000. Emergency crews were also dealing with small vegetation fires, gas leaks and reports of cracked roads, said Kern County Fire Chief David Witt.

He said 15 patients were evacuated from the Ridgecrest Regional Hospital as a precaution and out of concern for aftershocks.

Kern County District Supervisor Mick Gleason told CNN there were some structural issues with the hospital and some patients had to be moved from one ward to another and that others were taken to a neighbouring building.

Gleason did not say what the structural issues were.

Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden said that utility workers were assessing broken gas lines and turning off gas where necessary.

The local senior centre was holding a July 4th event when the quake hit and everyone made it out shaken up but without injuries, she said.

Food and other merchandise lie on the floor at the Stater Bros on China Lake Boulevard, after an earthquake in Ridgecrest, California. – AP