Magnitude 5.5 earthquake rocks Southern California, no immediate reports of damage

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A 5.5 magnitude earthquake struck on Wednesday in the California desert about 150 miles (241 km) northeast of Los Angeles, but there were no reports of damage or injuries in the sparsely populated area.

The temblor hit in a sparsely populated area near the Mojave Desert community of Searles Valley but was felt across Southern California, as far away as Los Angeles itself.

A series of strong of earthquakes and aftershocks struck that area near the small town of Ridgecrest on July 4 and 5 of last year. Such quakes are not uncommon in seismically active California.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Steve Gorman; Editing by Sandra Maler and Kim Coghill)

Strong quake hits Nevada but no immediate reports of injury, damage

(Reuters) – A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 struck a remote, sparsely populated area of Nevada about halfway between Reno and Las Vegas early on Friday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

There were no immediate reports of damage and casualties, according to a Nye County Sheriff’s dispatcher.

The temblor occurred about 35 miles (57 km) west-northwest of Tonopah, the seat of Nye County, at a depth of 4.7 miles (7.6 km), the USGS said on its website.

It could be felt as far away as Sacramento, California, 350 miles away, according to social media posts.

Nye County, about 200 miles north of Las Vegas, includes a portion of Death Valley National Park. It has 43,000 residents spread out over an area that is roughly equivalent to the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combinded.

(Reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Steve Orlofsky)

Quake hits Zagreb, PM urges social distancing as residents flee buildings

By Igor Ilic

ZAGREB (Reuters) – A large earthquake struck near the Croatian capital Zagreb on Sunday, critically injuring a teenager caught in a collapsed building in the city center and prompting appeals for social distancing after people rushed out onto the streets.

Sixteen other people were injured, including another minor who was badly hurt, and the 5.3 magnitude quake caused fires and power blackouts in parts of the capital, hospital and emergency services said.

People ran from their apartment buildings to their cars as pieces of the facades started falling off. Dozens of cars were also damaged by debris which fell off buildings.

Authorities said around 70 buildings were damaged.

Damages on Zagreb’s cathedral and debris are seen following an earthquake, in Zagreb, Croatia March 22, 2020. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

Ministers warned people not to walk close to buildings and beware of falling debris due to a strong wind. They also urged them to stay apart from one another as the country struggles to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“We are fighting two enemies at the moment, one is invisible and the other is unpredictable,” Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said.

So far, Croatia has reported 254 cases of the virus and one death.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said the government would provide accommodation in the students’ dormitory in Zagreb for up to 1,800 people whose homes were damaged.

He said the quake was the biggest to hit Zagreb in 140 years. It struck 6 km (4 miles) north of the city and was felt across the Western Balkans.

Zarko Rasic, head of the Zagreb Emergency Medicine Institute, a children’s hospital, said a 15-year-old was in a critical condition after being found by an emergency services team under a collapsed building and another minor had been admitted with head injuries from a falling roof.

The Zagreb Fire Department said firefighting and rescue operations were ongoing at several locations.

Plenkovic said the army had been called in to help clean up debris in Zagreb and urged citizens to “stay outside and keep your distance”.

“We are facing two crises now,” Plenkovic told a news conference. “Let us not forget the coronavirus epidemics … Individual discipline and responsibility is of utmost importance.”

Women walk past ruins of a building following an earthquake, in Zagreb, Croatia March 22, 2020. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

Local media reported that many people had headed out of Zagreb, prompting police to organize checkpoints on the highway to check if they were violating self-isolation.

The German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) downgraded the magnitude of the quake to 5.3 from an initial reading of 6.0. Croatia’s state seismology service said there had been 30 aftershocks.

The government said it would estimate the damage in the coming weeks and ask the European Commission for aid.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake measured 5.4, while the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) also reported 5.3 magnitude, followed by another 5.1 magnitude earthquake.

(Reporting by Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru, Igor Ilic in Zagreb and Maja Zuvela in Sarajevo; Editing by Sam Holmes/Christopher Cushing/Susan Fenton/Philippa Fletcher)

Utah hit with 5.7-magnitude quake, inbound flights from Salt Lake City diverted

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Wednesday it had evacuated the air control tower at Salt Lake City International Airport and halted flights after a magnitude 5.7 earthquake was reported nearby.

The FAA said it “has implemented a ground stop for (Salt Lake City) and is diverting inbound aircraft to other airports.” The FAA’s Salt Lake Air Route Traffic Control Center is handling all air traffic in the area.

Salt Lake City is the 23rd busiest U.S. airport and a hub for Delta Air Lines.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Major quake shakes Miami and the Caribbean, tsunami threat passes

(Reuters) – A powerful magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck the western Caribbean on Tuesday, triggering evacuations as buildings shook across the Cayman Islands, in Jamaica, and in downtown Miami, but with no initial reports of significant damage.

The epicenter of the quake was in the sea between Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cuba, at a shallow depth of 6.2 miles (10 km).

The International Tsunami Information Center said an earlier threat of a tsunami wave had largely passed. Minor sea level fluctuations up to 1 feet (30 cm) were still possible, it said.

In Miami, Florida, several buildings downtown had groups of people standing outside who said they had been evacuated.

The Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue department said it responded to multiple calls about high rise buildings swaying.

“As of now, there are no injuries or structural damages. Residents/visitors are advised to stay calm,” the department said on Twitter.

Officials across the region had no initial reports of major damage, despite the size of the quake.

Angie Watler, a spokeswoman for police on Cayman Brac, the island nearest the epicenter of the quake, said members of the public had reported some damage to buildings and to a swimming pool at the Carib Sands resort on the south of the island.

Videos on social media, apparently from Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, showed water sloshing out of pools during the quake.

Watler said there were no reports so far of injuries but that authorities were still making checks on the area.

A Cayman Islands official said there had been some reports of sinkholes following the quake.

The quake was also felt in several provinces across Cuba, the government said. It was not strongly felt in the capital of Havana, according to a Reuters witness.

(Reporting by Dave Graham and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City and Zachary Fagenson in Miami; Additional reporting by Sandra Maler in Washington and Sarah Marsh in Havana; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Rosalba O’Brien)

Turkey ends rescue efforts after earthquake toll reaches 41

By Umit Bektas

ELAZIG, Turkey (Reuters) – Turkey called off rescue operations on Monday in eastern areas hit by Friday’s earthquake after emergency workers recovered the body of a final person they were searching for in a collapsed building, bringing the death toll to 41, authorities said.

The magnitude 6.8 quake caused 37 deaths in Elazig province, about 550 km (340 miles) east of Ankara, and four in neighboring Malatya. More than 1,600 others were hurt, including 86 still being treated in hospitals, though none were in serious condition, the government said.

Forty-five people had been rescued from under ruined buildings, Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Authority (AFAD) said.

Authorities have warned residents not to enter damaged buildings because of the danger of collapse and further aftershocks, leaving many without a home in a region where temperatures fell to -6C (21F) on Monday morning.

Addressing reporters in Elazig, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the government would provide financial support to those whose homes were damaged. Some 1,000 temporary homes would be built, and some schools and mosques were now being used as shelters, he added.

Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum said authorities had started demolishing 22 damaged buildings in Elazig. Construction of some 2,000 new houses in the province was expected to be completed by year end, he added.

Turkey has a history of powerful earthquakes. More than 17,000 people were killed in August 1999 when a 7.6 magnitude quake struck Izmit, a city southeast of Istanbul. In 2011, a quake in the eastern city of Van killed more than 500.

(Reporting by Umit Bektas and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Dominic Evans)

Ten years after devastating quake, Haitians struggle to survive

By Stefanie Eschenbacher

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Every morning as the sun rises over the dusty, overgrown ruins of the Haitian capital’s iconic cathedral, Paul Christandro, who lived nearby all his life, thinks about the day ten years ago when he watched it come down, killing his friends.

On Jan. 12, 2010, the impoverished island nation was struck by a devastating earthquake that killed tens of thousands and left many more homeless. It lasted just 35 seconds, but its scars are still visible.

International organizations pledged billions of dollars in aid as the scale of the disaster became obvious, though with Christandro and many others still in temporary housing its use has come under intense scrutiny.

Bad governance, excessive bureaucracy, waste and inflated contracts that were given mostly to foreign companies have been blamed for the lack of progress, which was hampered further by corruption and political power struggles.

“Every day when I get up, I think about it,” said the 23-year-old Christandro under the scorching Caribbean sun in the capital Port-au-Prince.

The panicked screams of people buried under the rubble remain as ingrained in his memory as the silent facial expressions of those killed, he said.

“I think about my friends and wonder what I should do with my life,” said Christandro, an electrician who, like so many in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, tries to make ends meet working ad-hoc jobs or scavenging.

Estimates of the number of dead vary widely, from below 100,000 to as high as the government’s 316,000. There is also no consensus over how much aid Haiti actually received – or what constitutes aid – but most experts put it at more than $10 billion.

Outside the cathedral, often called Haiti’s Notre Dame for its impressive architecture and meticulous detail, he shares a mattress and a roof made from thin plastic sheets with friends who lost their homes and belongings.

‘A NEW SETTLEMENT’

Others left the chaos of the capital to start over. In Canaan, a one-hour motor bike ride away, more than 300,000 people settled on what was once a pristine hillside. There, construction work is ubiquitous.

“The earthquake has given us a new settlement,” President Jovenel Moise told Reuters in an interview. He called for better collaboration between aid donors and recipients. The Haitian government received only a fraction of the aid.

Among the many new arrivals to the hillside settlement is the Louis family, who built a home from wood panels and a tin roof. Now, they are working on a concrete construction. Daughter Christelle Louis was seven years old when their house collapsed as she was doing her homework.

“I didn’t understand what was happening. It was the first time I felt an earthquake, and my leg was injured,” she said. The high school student, who dreams of becoming a doctor, said Canaan offered her family a fresh start.

In Haiti, a country that was extremely poor even before the earthquake, nearly 60% of the population survives on less than $2.40 a day. Due to a combination of weather, geography and sub-standard construction, Haiti is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, which have eroded progress.

Moise, who became president in 2017, said he was unsure how aid money had been spent. “We don’t have much to show for it.”

In Camp Karade near Port-au-Prince, which was first set up as an emergency shelter, there is now electricity in many makeshift houses and public access to clean water via tanks from which residents can fill canisters.

Hip hop and Creole rhythms blasted from giant speakers and goats ambled around trash heaps piling up between temporary constructions that have morphed into seemingly permanent housing.

Eliese Desca, 66, one of many Haitians who lost their homes, said she had little hope that things would change for the better. “Our lives revolve around finding something to eat,” she said.

Jake Johnston, a senior research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research who specializes in Haiti, said that while the total amount of promised foreign aid was large, little trickled down to those on the ground.

The money helped to save lives but did not achieve the overall transformation many sought, Johnston said.

“The aid system is broken,” he said. “At least there is a recognition that it has been a failure.”

(Reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher in Port-au-Prince; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Bill Berkrot)

After quake, Puerto Rico governor says power should be back by Monday

By Ricardo Ortiz

YAUCO, Puerto Rico (Reuters) – Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez said power should be fully restored across the island by Monday after the worst earthquake in over a century knocked out the U.S. territory’s biggest generating plant and left nearly all its 3 million residents without electricity.

Two days after the earthquake, only half of the Caribbean island had power, Puerto Rico’s top energy executive, José Ortiz, said on Thursday.

The Caribbean island’s largest power plant, Costa Sur, could remain off line for a year or more due to earthquake damage, Ortiz told a news conference, evoking memories of lengthy power outages following back-to-back hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico in 2017.

But power should be completely restored by Monday as other generating plants came back online, Ortiz, executive director of public power utility PREPA, and Vázquez said at the news conference.

“Our projection, as you have heard, is that during the weekend, or Monday, we will have 100% of customers with energy services,” said Vázquez, who took office in August.

Tuesday’s 6.4 magnitude quake and 5.6 aftershock killed at least one person and destroyed or damaged about 300 homes in the south of the island.

The earthquake added to Puerto Rico’s woes as it continues to recover from Hurricanes Maria and Irma, which killed nearly 3,000 people in 2017, and go through a bankruptcy process.

Utility crews scrambled to fix downed lines on Thursday while residents relied on backyard generators to power lights, refrigerators and phone chargers.

Many people on the south of the island set up house outside, fearful another quake could collapse their homes.

“We are here trying to survive the situation, you know?” said Luis Rodriguez Melendez, sitting on a bed set up under a camping canopy in the hard-hit town of Yauco.

The quake shut down Puerto Rico’s power system as generating plants automatically went off line and Costa Sur, which supplied up to a third of electricity, suffered severe damage.

Puerto Rico needs remaining plants to operate at or near capacity to meet peak demand, Ortiz said.

Vázquez initially said power would be fully restored within 24 to 48 hours, but additional damage to plants and infrastructure was discovered, slowing the process.

“It’s a difficult moment,” said Yauco resident Bethzaida Lopez Pacheco, also at the shelter. “The fact that there’s no electricity makes it difficult for the elderly with conditions to manage, to manage their food, for people to care for their children.”

Ortiz did not rule out building a new power plant to replace the ageing Costa Sur facility. He also raised the prospect of bringing in temporary generators with aid from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency and said PREPA was looking for a company to supply them.

(Reporting by Ricardo Ortiz in Yauco, Puerto Rico; Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta and Andrew Hay; Editing by Scott Malone, Richard Chang and Leslie Adler)

Puerto Rico slowly brings back electricity after powerful earthquake

By Luis Valentin Ortiz

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) – Puerto Rico’s power grid crept back to service on Wednesday after it was shut down entirely as a safety measure on Tuesday amid a storm of earthquakes including the most powerful to strike the Caribbean island in 102 years.

The temblors including one of magnitude 6.4 killed at least one person and flattened homes across the southern coast, provoking a state of emergency on the island of 3 million people and the activation of the National Guard.

Nearly 500,000 of the island’s 1.5 million customers had service on Wednesday morning, up from 100,000 the night before, and the island was generating about 542 megawatts of electricity, the power authority AEE said, still short of the demand of some 2,000 megawatts.

The large Costa Sur plant suffered severe damage and remained out of service, though Governor Wanda Vazquez said on Tuesday power should be restored to most of the island within 48 hours provided there were no more earthquakes.

Puerto Ricans endured lengthy power outages in 2017 following devastating Hurricane Maria, one of a series of natural and man-made disasters to afflict the U.S. territory in recent years. The island is also going through bankruptcy and its former governor resigned amid a political scandal and massive street protests last year.

Vazquez ordered schools and other public offices closed while emergency responders searched crumpled buildings for possible victims and engineers inspected others for safety.

Some Puerto Ricans in the hard-hit south of the island moved beds outside on Tuesday night and slept outdoors, fearful their homes would crumble if another earthquake hit, Vazquez said.

Hundreds of quakes have touched the island, including 10 of magnitude 4 or greater, since Dec. 28, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Around 750 people spent the night in shelters in southern towns hit hardest, the government reported.

Bottled water, batteries and flashlights ran low at supermarkets in the capital San Juan and long lines formed outside gas stations. Backup generators kept the city’s international airport functioning.

Puerto Ricans are used to dealing with hurricanes but powerful quakes are rare.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty, this is the first time this has happened to us,” said Patricia Alonso, 48, who lost power and water at her home and headed to her mother’s apartment building with her 13-year-old son as it had a generator.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said on Tuesday that aid had been made available for earthquake response efforts.

(Reporting by Luis Valentin Ortiz; Additional reporting by Andrew Hay and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and David Gregorio)

Quake rattles Puerto Rico, damages homes on southern coast

(Reuters) – A 5.8-magnitude earthquake off the southern coast of Puerto Rico on Monday damaged homes and destroyed a rock formation on a beach that had been a tourist attraction, but there were no reports of injuries.

The quake was shallow at 3.7 miles (6 km) beneath the surface with an epicenter 8 miles (13 km) south-southeast of Indios, the U.S. Geological Survey said, enough to rattle the southwestern corner of the Caribbean island.

It was the largest in a series of quakes that have struck the area over the past two weeks.

Several homes were knocked off their pillars in the towns of Guanica and Guayanilla. Television images showed a number of elevated homes that crushed vehicles parked beneath the main floor.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said his office would be in contact with local and federal authorities to determine if government aid was needed for the U.S. territory.

Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez said she convened a meeting of her security team, which was assessing the damage.

Guayanilla also lost a tourist attraction called the Window of the Caribbean, a rock formation jutting into the sea that formerly featured a doughnut-like hole that provided a frame for the seascape behind it. With the quake, the top layer of rock and earth fell into the water.

The top of the frame had been subjected to partial collapse with the recent temblors and finally gave way with Monday’s quake, Telemundo Puerto Rico television reported.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Chris Reese)