SANTA MONICA, Calif. — A rolling 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit a remote area of Southern California between Los Angeles and Las Vegas on Thursday, the most powerful tremor to shake that region in two decades, according to the United States Geological Survey.
The quake, which struck shortly after 1 p.m. Eastern, caused dozens of aftershocks, about two dozen fire and medical incidents and the evacuation of several apartment buildings. But it appeared that no one was seriously injured in the temblor, the authorities told reporters at a news conference.
David Witt, the Kern County fire chief, said most emergency calls were coming from Ridgecrest, a small desert city of about 30,000 residents that was closest to the epicenter. Among them were minor injuries, a couple of house fires, downed power lines and some gas leaks.
Emergency workers were traveling to Kern County from other fire departments to help, Chief Witt said, and the county activated its emergency operations center.
“We have more calls than we have people,” Chief Witt said. “However, within two hours, we’ll have a lot of people to help.”
In a statement, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office said the Ridgecrest hospital and several apartment buildings had been evacuated and temporary shelters opened at two locations, including a Walmart in Ridgecrest. But as of midafternoon, only a handful of people had arrived, according to Alan Jones, an employee with the Parks and Recreation Department.
Mr. Jones said the earthquake was by far the most severe he had felt.
“It was definitely lifting up my house and lifting me — and I’m a big guy,” Mr. Jones said. “It moved me around like a rag doll.”
Mr. Jones said many items in his home flew off shelves, but the house itself did not seem to have been damaged.
The quake hit a secluded area in the Mojave Desert about a hundred miles north of Los Angeles and 50 miles east of Bakersfield, said Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the United States Geological Survey.
“It’s been widely felt, but we don’t expect any significant damage,” Mr. Caruso said.
He emphasized that the temblor would have been far worse if it had been closer to Los Angeles.
“An earthquake that strong that occurred near a city would cause major destruction and probably a lot of casualties,” he said.
Lucy Jones, a seismologist at Caltech, said the earthquake was the biggest in Southern California since 1999.
Data from the U.S.G.S. showed a swarm of aftershocks rattled the same region after the earthquake. A 4.0-magnitude temblor preceded the big shake.
Dr. Jones told reporters that the fault that ruptured on Thursday was separate from the San Andreas fault, the largest and most threatening of faults in California.
She said Thursday’s earthquake did not appear to have consequences for the timing of the Big One — the much-feared but inevitable earthquake on the San Andreas.
- The New York Times