Southern California was rocked by its largest earthquake in two decades on Thursday, a 6.4-magnitude tremblor that caused “substantial damage” at a military facility but otherwise only minor injuries in the sparsely populated area.
The shallow quake, followed by dozens of aftershocks, struck in the Mojave Desert six miles (10 kilometers) from the small city of Ridgecrest at 10:33 am (1733 GMT).
It was felt 160 miles away in Los Angeles and even as far afield as Las Vegas in the neighboring state of Nevada, as the United States celebrated its July 4 Independence Day holiday.
Although the quake in the most populous US state of California revived fears of the “Big One” — a powerful tremor along the San Andreas Fault that could devastate major cities in Southern California — President Trump was quick to reassure that this wasn’t it.
“All seems to be very much under control!” he tweeted two hours after the quake in the Searles Valley of San Bernardino County.
The area “will continue having a lot of aftershocks,” some maybe as strong as magnitude five, California Institute of Technology seismologist Lucy Jones told a press conference.
The earthquake was the largest in Southern California since 1999 when a 7.1-magnitude quake struck the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps base, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Thursday’s epicenter was in or on the edge of the US Navy’s sprawling desert bomb testing range known as China Lake.
The Naval Air Weapons Station covers 1.1 million acres (445,000 hectares) and strictly controls the airspace above it. Inside, the Navy develops and tests missiles, bombs, artillery shells and other war ordnance, and the aircraft used to deliver it.
An official at China Lake told AFP there was “substantial damage” to their facilities, including fires, water leaks and spills of hazardous materials.
Paul Dale, the station’s commanding officer, said later at a news conference that officials were making “damage assessments,” and declined to elaborate.