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Magnitude-6.0 earthquake in Northern California causes injuries, damaging fires, power outages

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Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Sunday, August 24, 2014, 9:02 PM -

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The largest earthquake to hit the San Francisco Bay Area in 25 years sent scores of people to hospitals, ignited fires, damaged multiple historic buildings and knocked out power to tens of thousands in California's wine country on Sunday.

The magnitude-6.0 earthquake that struck at 3:20 a.m. about 10 km from the city of Napa ruptured water mains and gas lines, left two adults and a child critically injured, upended bottles and casks at some of Napa Valley's famed wineries and sent residents running out of their homes in the darkness.

Dazed residents too fearful of aftershocks to go back to bed wandered at dawn through Napa's historic downtown, where the quake had shorn a 10-foot chunk of bricks and concrete from the corner of an old county courthouse. 

Bolder-sized pieces of rubble littered the lawn and street in front of the building and the hole left behind allowed a view of the offices inside.

Sarah Cormier, originally from Cavan, Ont., was in San Francisco preparing to head to the airport with her family when the quake hit.

"I heard a little knocking at first, then you actually felt this shaking," Cormier told the Weather Network by phone early Sunday morning. "The floor was shaking, the bed was moving in the hotel room."

She said the family huddled under a doorframe for a few seconds, before the quake subsided.

"It was a little concerning, no one panicked, though," she said. "That was one heck of a wake-up call for sure."

Infrastructure was impacted by the quake, with several reports of buckled roads.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the earthquake, the White House said. Federal officials also have been in touch with state and local emergency responders. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for southern Napa County, directing state agencies to respond with equipment and personnel.

Napa Fire Department Operations Chief John Callanan said the city has exhausted its own resources trying to extinguish six fires, some in places with broken water mains; transporting injured residents; searching homes for anyone who might be trapped; and answering calls about gas leaks and downed power lines.

Two of the fires happened at mobile home parks, including one where four homes were destroyed and two others damaged, Callanan said.

The earthquake sent 120 people to Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, where officials set up a triage tent to handle the influx. Most had cuts, bumps and bruises received either in the quake, when they tried to flee their homes or while cleaning up, hospital CEO Walt Mickens said. 

Three people were admitted with broken bones and two for heart attacks.

The child in critical condition was struck by part of a fireplace and had to be airlifted to a specialty hospital for a neurological evaluation, Callanan said.

(Below: 1989 San Francisco earthquake damage)

The earthquake is the largest to shake the Bay Area since the magnitude-6.9 Loma Prieta quake in 1989, the USGS said. 

That temblor struck the area on Oct. 17, 1989, during a World Series game between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics, collapsing part of the Bay Bridge roadway and killing more than 60 people, most when an Oakland freeway fell.

In Napa, at least three historic buildings were damaged, including the county courthouse, and at least two downtown commercial buildings have been severely damaged. 

A Red Cross evacuation centre was set up at a high school, and crews were assessing damage to homes, bridges and roadways.

Pacific Gas and Electric spokesman J.D. Guidi said close to 30,000 lost power right after the quake hit, but the number was down just under 19,000, most of them in Napa. 

Twitter was filled with images of minor damage inside homes, some stores and some structural damage, particularly in Napa, Vallejo, American Canyon and other communities closest the epicentre.

The depth of the earthquake was just less than 11 miles, and numerous small aftershocks have occurred, the USGS said.

TUNE IN: We'll have updates on the quake and its after effects on The Weather Network on TV.

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