Strongest quake in 20 years rattles southern California

A strong earthquake has rattled a large swathe of southern California and parts of Nevada, causing some damage in a town near the epicentre amid a series of aftershocks.

The 6.4 magnitude quake struck at 10.33am local time in the Mojave Desert, about 150 miles north east of Los Angeles, near the town of Ridgecrest. It is the strongest quake to hit the region in 20 years.

Peggy Breeden, the mayor of Ridgecrest, a town of 28,000 people, said firefighters were working to put out five fires, at least one of them at a home.

Utility workers were assessing broken gas lines and turning off gas where necessary, she said.

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

"Oh, my goodness, there's another one (quake) right now," Ms Breeden said on live television as an aftershock struck.

President Donald Trump said he was fully briefed on the earthquake and that it "all seems to be very much under control!"

A series of aftershocks included a 4.5 magnitude quake, according to the United States Geological Survey.

"It almost gave me a heart attack," said Cora Burke, a waitress at Midway Cafe in Ridgecrest, of the big jolt. "It's just a rolling feeling inside the building, inside the cafe and all of a sudden everything started falling off the shelf, glasses, the refrigerator and everything in the small refrigerator fell over."

Video posted online of a liquor store in Ridgecrest showed the aisles filled with broken wine and liquor bottles, knocked down boxes and other groceries strewn on the floor. Flames were seen shooting out of one home in the community.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the California Institute of Technology's seismology lab, said the earthquake was the strongest since a 7.1 quake struck in the area on October 16 1999.

She said that the 6.4 quake centred near the town of Ridgecrest was preceded by a magnitude 4.2 temblor about half an hour earlier.

She said vigorous aftershocks were occurring and that she would not be surprised if a magnitude 5 quake hit but that they were striking in a remote, sparsely populated area. "This is an isolated enough location that that's going to greatly reduce the damage," she said.

People from Las Vegas to the Pacific Coast reported feeling a rolling motion and took to social media to report it.

Local emergency agencies also took to social media to ask people to only call 911 for emergencies.

"We are very much aware of the significant earthquake that just occurred in Southern California. Please DO NOT call 9-1-1 unless there are injuries or other dangerous conditions. Don't call for questions please," the LAPD said in a statement published on Twitter.

There were no reports of serious damage or injuries in Los Angeles, the department said.

Ashleigh Chandler, a helicopter rescue worker at Fort Irwin, California, said the quake happened as she was getting ready for a July 4 party.

"I was just in the living room getting everything ready, we start to feel the shaking, so then I look up and then the wine bottles start rattling and I thought, 'They're going to fall.'

"My stepson was in the house and my dog, so we just got everyone outside and then it ended. It was like 15, 20 seconds, maybe. It was pretty good shaking, so I'm out of breath."

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