Biggest earthquake in 20 years rocks Southern California, strong aftershocks expected
The shallow quake, which was followed by dozens of aftershocks, struck in a sparsely populated portion of the Mojave Desert, six miles (10 kilometers) from the city of Ridgecrest at 10:33 am (1733 GMT).
It was felt 160 miles away in Los Angeles and even as far afield as Las Vegas in the neighboring state of Nevada, as the United States celebrated its July 4 Independence Day holiday.
Although the quake in the most populous US state of California revived fears of the „Big One” — a powerful tremblor along the San Andreas Fault that could devastate major cities in Southern California — President Trump was quick to reassure that this wasn’t it.
„All seems to be very much under control!” he tweeted two hours after the quake in the Searles Valley of San Bernardino County.
California Institute of Technology seismologist Lucy Jones told a press conference that residents „will continue having a lot of aftershocks,” some maybe as strong as magnitude five.
The quake was the largest in Southern California since 1999 when a 7.1-magnitude quake struck the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps base, according to The Los Angeles Times.
David Witt, the fire chief in Kern County which includes Ridgecrest, reported „minor, minor injuries,” stemming from broken glass and shelves falling down in supermarkets.
He was not able to provide an exact number of casualties.
Peggy Breeden, mayor of Ridgecrest which has a population of 28,000, said the local hospital had been evacuated as a precaution, and that she had received reports of a handful of house fires.
Some areas of the city had lost power, while gas had been cut due to ruptured lines, she said.
The San Bernardino County Fire Department, meanwhile, said that „buildings and roads have sustained varying degrees of damage.”
This included „buildings with minor cracks, broken water mains, power lines down, rock slides on certain roads.”
The quake struck at a depth of 6.6 miles (10.7 kilometers) in the vast desert region, lasting seconds.
Its epicenter was located in or on the edge of the US Navy’s sprawling desert bomb testing range known as China Lake.
The Naval Air Weapons Station covers 1.1 million acres (445,000 hectares) and strictly controls the airspace above it. Inside, the Navy develops and tests missiles, bombs, artillery shells and other war ordnance, and the aircraft used to deliver it.
An official at China Lake said there was „substantial damage” to their facilities, including fires, water leaks and spills of hazardous materials.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said there was no significant damage there, while the city’s international airport said its runways were unharmed, with operations continuing as normal.
– ‘Even bigger earthquake’ –
Jones said there is a small possibility this quake is the prelude to a larger one.
„There is about a one-in-20 chance that this location will be having an even bigger earthquake within the next few days, that we have not yet seen the biggest earthquake of the sequence,” she said.
„There have been hundreds of earthquakes today,” she said, including more than 100 that the United States Geological Survey measured at greater than magnitude 2.5.
For filmmaker Ava DuVernay, a lifelong resident of Los Angles, „That was the longest earthquake I’ve ever experienced. Not jerky. Smooth and rolling. But it was loooong.”
A hiker was reportedly killed and another was injured when a volcano on the Italian island of Stromboli dramatically erupted on Wednesday.
The explosion left molten lava flowing down the flanks of the volcano, setting alight bushes, trees and grass.
There were reports that some tourists had thrown themselves into the sea in panic, while others jumped into boats to evacuate the tiny island, which lies off the coast of Sicily. Residents had barricaded themselves into their homes, according to Ansa, Italy’s national news agency.
The fire brigade commander of the Sicilian city of Messina confirmed the casualties to La Repubblica. The hiker who was killed was later named as Massimo Imbesi, 35, from Sicily. The injured man was from Brazil.
There was a series of violent explosions from the crater of the volcano, which dominates the island.
Fiona Carter, a British tourist on the neighbouring island of Panarea, which lies about 17 miles from Stromboli, heard the eruption.
„We turned around to see a mushroom cloud coming from Stromboli. Everyone was in shock. Then red hot lava started running down the mountain towards the little village of Ginostra,” she told Reuters.
„The cloud got bigger, white and grey. It enveloped Ginostra and now the cloud has covered Stromboli entirely.”
„We saw the explosion from the hotel. There was a loud roar,” said Michela Favorito, who works in a hotel near Fico Grande, on the east side of the island.
„We plugged our ears and after this a cloud of ash swept over us. The whole sky is full of ash, a fairly large cloud,” she said.
Emergency worker Calogero Foti told RAI television: „Unfortunately one man is dead, there are a few injured, but none seriously.”
Firefighters were being deployed from nearby islands and a Canadair water-bombing aircraft was also sent.
Stefano Branca, from the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology, told Reuters there had been a „paroxysmal eruption” on the island, when high-pressure magma explodes from a shallow, underground reservoir. „These are events of great intensity and quite rare,” he said.
Tourists are drawn to its crystal clear waters, black sand beaches and the chance to climb the 3,000ft-high summit of the volcano.
“I’ve never felt so much fear in my life,” one visitor wrote on Twitter, posting a photograph of the sides of the volcano on fire.
Another tourist wrote: “Panic and chaos among the people present on the island. Many are trying to escape into the sea or in small boats.”
Stromboli, which is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, is part of the Aeolian archipelago of islands, which attract sailors and celebrities during the summer months.
Japan Heavy Rain
TOKYO (AP) — Heavy rain caused flooding and mudslides in southern Japan on Thursday, injuring four people, damaging dozens of homes and leaving hundreds of others without power.
One person was missing and possibly was buried under the same mudslide where another had been confirmed dead earlier, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters. The casualties occurred in the hardest-hit southern prefecture of Kagoshima.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to „do our best for rescue and lifesaving activities.”
Nearly 80 houses were damaged in Kagoshima and the two other southern prefectures of Miyazaki and Kumamoto. About 1,700 houses were without power.
Videos filmed by residents were circulated on social media showing a river in Kagoshima swollen with muddy, brown water threatening to overrun its banks.
Kagoshima Gov. Satoshi Mitazono requested the help of military personnel in the rescue effort. About 14,000 troops were on standby.
Rainfall since the weekend has exceeded 1 meter (yard) in areas, he said, and cautioned residents against landslide risks and urged them to stay up to date with weather reports. Rain has substantially subsided by Thursday afternoon, according to the Meteorological Agency website.
Landslide warnings remained in effect for Kagoshima, Miyazaki and Kumamoto prefectures.
More than 1 million residents had been advised to evacuate to shelters. About 7,900 people remained at evacuation centers in the hardest-hit three prefectures as of Thursday morning, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.
A half-dozen North Atlantic right whales have died in the past month, leading scientists, government officials and conservationists to call for a swift response to protect the endangered species.
There are only a little more than 400 of the right whales left. All six of the dead whales have been found in the Gulf of St. Lawrence off Canada, and at least three appear to have died after they were hit by ships.
The deaths have led scientists to sound the alarm about a potentially catastrophic loss to the population. The deaths are especially troubling because they include females, said Philip Hamilton, research scientist with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium.
„If we’re going to have deaths, they just can’t be female,” Hamilton said, adding the population is down to only about 100 reproductive females. „We need a different system.”
Right whales have suffered high mortality and poor reproduction in recent years, particularly in 2017. The whales appear to be traveling in different areas of the ocean than usual because of food availability, said Nick Record, senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine.
That shift, linked to the warming of the ocean, has apparently brought whales outside protected zones and left them vulnerable, he said.
„Animals like whales that have to figure out where their food is, they have to figure out a new environment as they go,” Record said. „You can almost think of the whales like climate migration.”
Right whales are so named because they were considered the „right whale” to hunt during the commercial whaling era of long ago. They could often be hunted close to the coast and provided a reliable source of whale oil, a precious commodity of the time.
Those characteristics led to the decimation of the population, and it has struggled to rebuild since. The animals numbered as few as about 270 as recently as 1990, and as many as about 480 in 2010.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada said Tuesday that the necropsy of the sixth whale, which was named Clipper, was completed in Quebec, and that the animal’s death appeared consistent with blunt trauma from a vessel strike.
Ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are two top threats to right whales often cited by conservationists.
A speed restriction of 10 knots in the area where the whale was first observed remained in effect, the agency said. It also said it has increased surveillance over the Gulf of St. Lawrence to assess the location of the whales and make sure mariners comply with rules.
Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, said Wednesday he is calling for a meeting with the Canadian government to request „immediate action to provide comprehensive protection” for the whales.
„Preventing any additional deaths of North Atlantic right whales is our highest priority. To do this, we must work with our partners to strengthen protections immediately,” Oliver said in a statement.