Wildland firefighters pass by hospital equipment being set up outside the Ridgecrest Regional Hospital after a powerful earthquake struck Southern California in the city of Ridgecrest, California, US, July 4, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

LOS ANGELES – A magnitude 7.1 earthquake shook Southern California on Friday, triggering fires, buckling part of a highway, damaging buildings but causing few reported injuries despite striking with eight times more force than the initial quake in the same area a day earlier.

The quake struck at about 8:20 pm (0320 GMT) near the town of Ridgecrest south of Death Valley National Park, about 125 miles (202 km) northeast of Los Angeles, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

It was followed by at least 16 aftershocks of magnitude 4 or above, the USGS said, which also warned of a 50 percent or better chance of another magnitude 6 quake in the days ahead.

“We’ve got fires, we’ve got gas leaks, we’ve got injuries, we’ve got people without power,” Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden said by telephone. “We’re dealing with it as best we can.”

Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin said so far only minor injuries had been reported.

Friday’s quake was the most powerful to hit Southern California since another 7.1 temblor struck the Mojave Desert near the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base in 1999, said Lucy Jones, a seismologist for the California Institute of Technology (CalTech).

California Governor Gavin Newsom has requested federal assistance and has put the Office of Emergency Services (OES) on highest alert.

“Getting resources into the area continues to be a challenge,” OES chief Mark Ghilarducci told a news briefing, noting the quake hit as darkness fell. “We know as day breaks we’ll get a better assessment of the damage.”

Ridgecrest was dealing with a significant number of fires, mostly caused by ruptured gas lines, Ghilarducci said. There were reports that a building had collapsed in the small town of Trona, he said.

A rockslide closed State Road 178 in Kern County and video posted a twitter showed a stretch of road had buckled.

Luke Smith, owner of Furys Sports Bar in Ridgecrest, said in a phone interview that Friday’s quake shook tiles from the interior ceiling, slightly damaging his bar and knocking down some bottles. Three customers were in the bar at the time but no one was injured, he said.

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