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Californians Clean Up After Strongest Earthquake in 20 Years

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The strongest earthquake to hit California in 20 years caused minor injuries and damage in a town near the quake's epicenter.

The quake struck Thursday morning in the Mojave Desert, about 240 kilometers northeast of Los Angeles. Scientists say it measured 6.4 in magnitude. The United States Geological Survey defines magnitude as a number that represents the relative size of a quake.

An area near the small town of Ridgecrest was most affected by the quake. But it was felt by people in areas as far away as Los Angeles and Las Vegas, in the neighboring state of Nevada.

Officials said more than 80 aftershocks shook the town and nearby areas by Friday. One of them had a magnitude of 4.5. These aftershocks were expected to continue.

Linemen repair lines that were broken during a powerful earthquake that struck Southern California, near the epicenter, northeast the city of Ridgecrest, California, July 4, 2019.
Linemen repair lines that were broken during a powerful earthquake that struck Southern California, near the epicenter, northeast the city of Ridgecrest, California, July 4, 2019.

The fire chief in California's Kern County, David Witt, told reporters only a few "minor" injuries were reported. He said the injuries came from broken glass and objects falling inside local businesses.

Witt added that some hospital patients were moved from the town's main hospital because it received damage.

Two houses caught fire from broken gas lines. Some power lines went down, leaving thousands of people without electricity. The quake was blamed for some small grass fires and damage to roads.

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Kern County, meaning the area can receive state aid and recovery assistance.

Cracks are shown in a highway caused by a powerful earthquake that struck Southern California near the city of Ridgecrest, California, U.S., July 4, 2019. REUTERS/David McNew
Cracks are shown in a highway caused by a powerful earthquake that struck Southern California near the city of Ridgecrest, California, U.S., July 4, 2019. REUTERS/David McNew

Cora Burke is a restaurant worker in Ridgecrest. She told The Associated Press the earthquake "almost gave me a heart attack." She described "a rolling feeling" inside the building. "And all of a sudden everything started falling off the shelf," she said.

Video images of one business showed the floor filled with broken bottles, boxes and food products that fell from shelves.

Lucy Jones is with the California Institute of Technology. She said the earthquake was the strongest to hit California since a 7.1 quake struck the area on October 16, 1999.

"This has been an extremely quiet, abnormal time," Jones said. "This type of earthquake is much more normal...The long-term average is probably once every five or 10 years somewhere in Southern California."

I'm Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse and VOA News. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

epicenter – n. the part of the earth's surface directly above the true center of an earthquake

shelf n. flat surface used to hold things that is usually fixed to a wall

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