Major 7.1 quake hit in California desert

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Fissures that opened up under a highway during a powerful earthquake that struck Southern California are seen near the city of RidgecrestJuly 6, 2019, RIDGECREST, Calif. (Reuters) – Emergency officials and jittery residents in the high desert of Southern California braced for potentially dangerous aftershocks from a major earthquake that damaged buildings, ruptured gas lines and sparked fires near the remote epicenter of the temblor. 

The powerful magnitude 7.1 tremor rocked the Mojave Desert town of Ridgecrest south of Death Valley National Park as darkness fell on Friday night, jolting the area with eight times more force than a 6.4 quake that had struck the same area 34 hours earlier.

California Governor Gavin Newsom requested federal assistance and placed the state Office of Emergency Services (OES) on its highest alert.

“We have significant reports of fires, structural fires, mostly as a result of gas leaks or gas line breaks,” OES Director Mark Ghilarducci told a late-night news conference on Friday.

 Violent shaking also caused water main breaks and knocked out power and communications to parts of Ridgecrest, a city of about 27,000 that lies about 125 miles (202 km) northeast of Los Angeles.

No fatalities or serious injuries were reported from either quake, police said. But Ghilarducci said the full extent of damage would not be known before daybreak on Saturday.

“This was a very large earthquake, and we also know there’s going to be a series of aftershocks as a result of the main quake,” Ghilarducci said, adding his agency faced a “challenge” getting needed resources to the isolated quake zone. “This is not going to be something that’s going to be over right away.”

Overnight, about six hours after the main quake, the town center of Ridgecrest was quiet, except for the occasional rumble of aftershocks. Some residents could be seen sitting on lawn chairs in the darkness outside. The garage doors of many homes were left open with a car parked on the driveway.

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