California governor says earthquakes are a 'wakeup call'

Photo: AP

The two major earthquakes that hit southern California should alert people across the nation of the need to be prepared for natural disasters, the state's governor said as officials expressed relief that the damages weren't worse.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Saturday that governments must strengthen alert systems and building codes, and residents should make sure they know how to protect themselves during an earthquake.

"It is a wake-up call for the rest of the state and other parts of the nation, frankly," Newsom said at a news conference to update the public on the state's efforts to help the region hit by earthquakes on Thursday and Friday.

Friday's earthquake was the largest one southern California in nearly 20 years.

Officials voiced concerns about the possibility of major aftershocks in the days and even months to come.

No fatalities or major injuries were reported after the 7.1-magnitude quake, which jolted an area from Sacramento to Mexico and prompted the evacuation of the Navy's largest single landholding, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in the Mojave Desert.

The quake struck at 8:19 p.m. Friday and was centered 11 miles (18 kilometers) from Ridgecrest, the same area of the desert where a 6.4-magnitude temblor hit on Thursday.

It left behind cracked and burning buildings, broken roads, obstructed railroad tracks and leaking water and gas lines.

The light damage was largely due to the remoteness of the area where the earthquake occurred, but Newsom cautioned after touring Ridgecrest that "it's deceiving, earthquake damage. You don't notice it at first."

Newsom estimated more than $100 million in economic damages and said President Donald Trump called him to offer federal support in the rebuilding effort.

The California National Guard was sending 200 troops, logistical support and aircraft, Maj. Gen. David Baldwin said.

The Pentagon had been notified, and the entire California Military Department was put on alert, he said.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology and a former science adviser at the U.S. Geological Survey, said the new quake probably ruptured along about 25 miles (40 kilometers) of fault line and was part of a continuing sequence.

The seismic activity is unlikely to affect fault lines outside of the area, Jones said, noting that the gigantic San Andreas Fault is far away.

Egill Hauksson, another Caltech seismologist, said later in the day that scientists believe the continuing sequence could produce more than 30,000 quakes of magnitude 1 or greater over six months. He said the probability of a magnitude 7 over the next week is about 3%, but one or two magnitude 6 quakes are expected.

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