RIDGECREST, Calif. — Crews in California assessed damage to cracked and burned buildings, broken roads, leaking water and gas lines and other infrastructure July 6 after the largest earthquake the region has seen in nearly 20 years jolted a remote stretch of country from Sacramento to Mexico, AP reported.
No fatalities or major injuries were reported after the July 5 7.1-magnitude earthquake, and officials said damage did not initially appear as bad as expected and fewer than 200 people were in shelters.
But forecast temperatures of around 100 degrees and warnings by seismologists that large aftershocks were expected to continue for days — if not weeks — prompted further precautions.
The California National Guard was sending 200 troops, logistical support and aircraft, said Maj. Gen. David Baldwin. The Pentagon had been notified, and the entire California Military Department was put on alert, he said.
The quake struck at 8:19 p.m. July 5 and was centered 11 miles from Ridgecrest, the same area of the Mojave Desert where a 6.4-magnitude temblor hit just a day earlier.
An Indian American owner of a motel in Ridgecrest said July 5 she thought they were not going to survive as the whole roof of the building would collapse on her and the guests, PTI reported, quoting various media reports.
Speaking to CNN, Pinky Panchal and Niket Aggarwal, who own a Super 8 motel in Ridgecrest, said, "I was checking a customer in and I was at the front desk and we had this little shake at 8:05 so went out, we went back in and right after that what we saw was massive.
"It was the first time I experienced something like this. As such the whole building was going to collapse... people ran out on the road. The sound of earthquake, the whole building was shaking and I felt like the whole roof was going to fall down and it was bad, it was really bad what we experienced, yesterday," she said.
"I just started crying, I just felt whether we are going to survive this or not, and then like every moment I was feeling that it was and we just ran to the Super 8 sign. We and other guests just held each other tight, we were waiting for the shakes to stop," Panchal said.
In San Bernardino County, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency amid “conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property.”
The California Office of Emergency Services brought in cots, water and meals and set up cooling centers, Director Mark Ghilarducci said.
State highway officials shut down a 30-mile section of State Route 178 between Ridgecrest and the town of Trona southwest of Death Valley, due to a rockslide and severe cracking. California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Christine Knadler said crews worked through the night to patch the roadway, but it remained rough and uneven. A $3 million emergency contract had been approved for repairs, she said.
There is about a 1-in-10 chance that another 7.0 quake could hit within the next week, according to Lucy Jones, a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology and a former science adviser at the U.S. Geological Survey. The chance of a 5.0-magnitude quake “is approaching certainty,” she added.
President Donald Trump said he was fully briefed on the earthquake and that it “all seems to be very much under control!''
There was little likelihood the quake raised the risk of a quake on the mighty San Andreas Fault, the sleeping giant that runs through much of California and is expected to be the source of the feared “Big One,'' the scientists said.
(With AP reports)