Aftershocks hit California today

More aftershocks rattled central California today following a magnitude 6.5 earthquake that killed two people, injuring dozens and wrecked a landmark clock tower.

More aftershocks rattled central California today following a magnitude 6.5 earthquake that killed two people, injuring dozens and wrecked a landmark clock tower.

Residents from San Francisco to Los Angeles were shaken by the quake, the first to cause fatalities in the state since 1994.

The bodies of two women were pulled from under the roof of Paso Robles’ 1892 clock tower, which pitched into the street and crushed a row of parked cars in the town of 25,000, 20 miles east of the epicentre.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger planned to tour Paso Robles today.

The main shock was centred in a sparsely populated area about 11 miles north of the coastal town of Cambria.

It was followed by more than 90 aftershocks larger than 3.0, the biggest of which was estimated at 4.7, according to the US Geological Survey.

The state Office of Emergency Services said there was a 90% or greater probability that aftershocks of 5.0 magnitude or greater would follow in the next week.

By nightfall, search and rescue crews in Paso Robles had combed all seriously damaged buildings and were confident they had found all the quake’s victims, though the owner of one car crushed in the rubble still had not been located.

“We’re out of rescue mode and now it’s just going to be general debris removal,” said Fire Chief Scott Hall.

The bodies of Jennifer Myrick, 19, and Marilyn Zafuto, 55, were found on the street outside a dress shop.

“It appeared as though they were trying to get away,” said police Sergeant Bob Adams.

A young boy suffered a broken arm and another person received minor injuries when a bakery collapsed, while city-wide there were reports of about 40 minor injuries, said Adams.

About 10,000 homes and businesses were without power in the San Luis Obispo area.

The quake was felt in the control room of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant but there appeared to be no damage and it was functioning normally.

It also shook the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, the estate of the legendary publisher William Randolph Hearst – the inspiration for Orson Welles’ classic film Citizen Kane.

The castle – a particularly popular tourist attraction at this time of the year because of its Hearst family Christmas decorations – reported no injuries and no immediate signs of any serious damage but was evacuated as a precaution.

The quake also shook the federal courthouse in San Francisco, 165 miles to the north-west of the epicentre.

People in Los Angeles, 185 miles south-east, felt a sustained rolling motion.

“It was pretty sharp,” said Sharyn Conn, a receptionist at the oceanside Cypress Cove Inn in Cambria, population 6,200. “It really went on and on. I just got everyone under the door frames and rode it out.”

Other than Paso Robles, damage appeared minor elsewhere in the region known for wineries and horse ranches.

Several people were reported hurt by falling barrels at a winery, authorities said.

In Paso Robles, residents described a scene of falling bricks, collapsing ceilings and panicked Christmas shoppers as more than 40 structures – including the clock tower building – were damaged.

The historic structure, sometimes called the Acorn Building, was made of wood and unreinforced masonry, Adams said.

This type of construction no longer allowed under modern building codes.

The quake struck in a known fault zone on a series of faults that run parallel to the San Andreas Fault, said Lucy Jones, scientist in charge of the US Geological Survey office in Pasadena.

The quake was the state’s most powerful since 1999, when a nonfatal magnitude-7.1 quake struck the desert .

The 1994 Northridge quake hit a densely populated area near Los Angeles and killed 72 people, injured 9,000.

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