6.4-magnitude earthquake shakes northern California, leaving 2 dead, thousands without power

By Nathan Frandino and Steve Gorman

RIO DELL, Calif. (Reuters) – A 6.4 magnitude earthquake rocked California’s northernmost coast before dawn on Tuesday, damaging homes, roads and water systems, leaving tens of thousands of people without electricity.

According to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, at least 11 people were reported injured and two others died from “medical emergencies” that occurred during or shortly after the quake.

The quake, which struck at 2:30 a.m. Pacific time and was accompanied by about 80 aftershocks, was centered 215 miles (350 km) north of San Francisco, off the coast of Humboldt County, a large rural area. is known for its redwood forests, local seafood, industrial lumber and dairy farms.

The area is also known for its relatively frequent seismic activity, although the latest quake appears to have caused more disruption than others in recent years.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire), Tuesday’s quake caused a structural fire, which was quickly extinguished and caused two other buildings to collapse.

The ministry’s dispatchers made 70 emergency calls after the quake, including one report of a trapped person in need of rescue, spokesman Tran Beyea said. know.

Details of casualties related to the quake are sketchy, but one survivor was a child with a head injury and the other was an elderly adult with a broken hip, according to media reports. Local media quoted the sheriff’s office.


Police closed the bridge over the River Eel leading into Ferndale, a picturesque town known for its Victorian gingerbread houses and shop fronts, after four large cracks were discovered in the trees. bridge. The California Highway Patrol also said the pavement is at risk of slipping.

Authorities said at least four other roads in Humboldt County were closed due to earthquake damage and the possibility of a burst gas line is under investigation. The highway patrol said a section of the road had subsided.

State emergency services officials said Ferndale and the nearby towns of Fortuna and Rio Dell were hardest hit, with damage including a broken main water mains and about two dozen homes “tagged with red tags. ” because they are too unstable to live safely.

Daniel Holsapple, 33, of nearby Arcata, said: ‘The shaking was really intense. He recounted hugging his pet cat and running outside after he was woken in the dark by house movement and an emergency alert from his mobile phone. .

“Didn’t see what was happening. Just the general feeling and rumbling sound of the foundation of the entire house shaking,” he said.

Janet Calderon, 32, who lives in the adjoining town of Eureka, said she woke up to find her two cats seem agitated before the quake hit, causing her bedroom to shake. very strong”.

“Everything on my desk fell down,” she said.

State emergencies director Mark Ghilarducci said California’s earthquake early warning system appeared to be working, sending an electronic alert to the mobile devices of about 3 million northern California residents 10 seconds ago. when the first rumbling was felt.

While notable tremors are a regular occurrence in California, magnitude 6.4 tremors are less common and potentially dangerous, with the potential to cause severe damage. partially collapse buildings or displace structures from their foundations.

Tuesday’s quake struck a seismically active area where several tectonic plates converge on the seafloor about 2 miles from the coast, said Cynthia Pridmore, a senior geologist at the Institute. , an area that has generated about 40 earthquakes of magnitude 6.0-7.0 over the past century. California Geological Survey.

“So it’s not uncommon for such large earthquakes to happen in this area,” she told a news conference.

Shaking from Tuesday’s quake, which occurred at a relatively shallow depth of 11.1 miles (17.9 km) was felt as far as the San Francisco Bay area, the United States Geological Survey reported. The largest aftershock had a magnitude of 4.6 on the Richter scale.

About 79,000 homes and businesses lost power in Ferndale and surrounding Humboldt County shortly after the quake, according to grid monitoring website

A spokesperson for PG&E (NYSE:NYSE) has gone out to assess the utility’s gas and electrical systems for any damage and hazards, which could take several days, a company spokesperson said. Karly Hernandez said.

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