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California hit by the biggest earthquake in 20 years

Southern California hit by 7.1-magnitude quake, strongest in two decades

Tremors were felt 240 kilometres away in Los Angeles

Southern California was rattled by its largest earthquake in two decades late Friday, a 7.1-magnitude tremor that shook buildings and cut power supplies in parts of Los Angeles but did not cause major damage or deaths, officials said.

The shallow quake struck near the small city of Ridgecrest at 8:19 pm (0319 GMT Saturday) and follows a 6.4-magnitude quake that hit the same area the day before.

The latest quake struck near the town of Ridgecrest on the edge of Death Valley National Park, about 125 miles (202 km) northeast of Los Angeles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). It was also measured at 7.1 by the European-Mediterranean Seismological Agency.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist for the California Institute of Technology (CalTech), said Friday’s quake was the most powerful to hit the region since 1999.

The San Bernadino County Fire Department reported that Friday’s quake had caused some damage to buildings.

The latest quake was 11 times stronger than the previous day’s “foreshock”, according to the United States Geological Survey, and is part of what seismologists are calling an “earthquake sequence”.

The tremor was felt more than 150 miles (240 kilometers) away in Los Angeles, where the fire department deployed vehicles and helicopters to check on damage and residents in need of emergency aid.

The quake revived fears of the “Big One” – a powerful tremor along the San Andreas Fault that could devastate major cities in southern California.

On Thursday, Caltech seismologist Lucy Jones had warned a press conference that there was “about a one-in-20 chance that this location will be having an even bigger earthquake within the next few days, that we have not yet seen the biggest earthquake of the sequence.”

On Friday, Jones tweeted: “You know we say we 1 in 20 chance that an earthquake will be followed by something bigger? This is that 1 in 20 time.”

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