February 4, 2023

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Strong California earthquake damages buildings, roads, cuts power

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At least 11 people injured and two died from medical emergencies after the magnitude 6.4 quake off northern California.

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake that struck off the coast of northern California has damaged homes, roads and water systems and left tens of thousands of people without electricity.

At least 11 people were reported injured, and two others died from “medical emergencies” that occurred during or just after the quake on Tuesday morning, according to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.

The earthquake hit at 2:34am (10:00 GMT) on Tuesday, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and was followed by about 80 aftershocks.

Centred about 350km (215 miles) north of San Francisco and offshore of Humboldt County — a region known for relatively frequent seismic activity — the latest earthquake appeared to cause more disruption than others in recent years.

Tuesday’s temblor set off one structure fire, which was quickly extinguished, and caused two other buildings to collapse, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).

The department said its dispatchers fielded 70 emergency calls after the earthquake, including one report of a person left trapped who needed rescuing, spokesperson Tran Beyea said.

Details on earthquake-related casualties were sketchy, but one surviving victim was a child with a head injury and the other an older person with a broken hip, according to local media reports citing the sheriff’s office.

The USGS said an initial assessment showed a low likelihood of casualties, and the National Tsunami Warning Center said a tsunami was not expected.

Still, the earthquake cut power to more than 70,000 people in Humboldt County, according to the outage tracker site poweroutage.us.

“Power is out across the county. Do not call 911 unless you are experiencing an immediate emergency,” the Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services tweeted.

Local media reported the earthquake caused numerous gas leaks, downed powerlines and resulted in at least one structure fire in the city of Ferndale.

Small rockslides were also reported, and at least one roadway buckled during the earthquake, which was followed by dozens of small aftershocks.

Humboldt County officials warned of reports of “widespread damages to roads and homes” and urged residents to check gas and water lines for signs of leaks.

Police in the city of Ferndale also moved to close a bridge that the California Highway Patrol reported had cracks following the earthquake, KRCR-TV reported.

Caroline Titus, a resident of Ferndale, tweeted a video in her darkened home of toppled furniture and smashed dishes.

“Our home is a 140-year-old Victorian. The north/south shaking is very evident in what fell,” she said.

“That was a big one,” she added in a subsequent tweet.

The earthquake followed a smaller magnitude 3.6 earthquake that struck about 400km (250 miles) near San Francisco on Saturday.

California is regularly shaken by earthquakes, and seismologists have warned a quake capable of causing widespread destruction is likely to hit the state in the next 30 years.

A magnitude 6.7 earthquake in 1994 in Northridge, northwest of Los Angeles, left at least 60 people dead and caused an estimated $10bn in damage.

A magnitude 6.9 quake in San Francisco in 1989 claimed the lives of 67 people.

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