A powerful magnitude 6.4 earthquake — Southern California’s strongest in decades — rattled a large swath of the state and parts of Nevada on Thursday, touching off house fires and damaging buildings.
It struck at 10:33 a.m. PT in the Mojave Desert, near the city of Ridgecrest, 320 kilometres northeast of Los Angeles, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.
The USGS said the quake, initially reported as a magnitude 6.6, was shallow — only 8.7 kilometres deep — which would have amplified its effect.
Veteran seismologist Lucy Jones said it was the most powerful earthquake Southern California has seen in 20 years. The previous large earthquake was of magnitude 7.1 and struck in the area on Oct. 16, 1999.
Jones told reporters at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena that the 6.4 quake was preceded by a magnitude 4.3 quake a half hour earlier.
The quake was felt as far as Los Angeles and was quickly followed by several smaller aftershocks in the area.
People from Las Vegas to the Pacific coast reported feeling a rolling motion that shook shower doors and rocked dining room lights.