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California braced for more aftershocks after 7.1 magnitude earthquake

California braced for more aftershocks after 7.1 magnitude earthquake* Powerful tremor strikes 125 miles north of Los Angeles * Communities already assessing damage from 4 July quakeOfficials in southern California’s high desert were braced for strong, potentially dangerous aftershocks after a major earthquake damaged buildings, ruptured gas lines and sparked fires near its remote epicenter.As darkness fell on Friday, the magnitude 7.1 tremor rocked the Mojave desert town of Ridgecrest near Death Valley National Park, jolting the area with eight times more force than a 6.4 quake that struck the same area 34 hours earlier.Southern California can expect more significant shaking in the near future, said Lucy Jones, a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology and a former science adviser at the US Geological Survey.There is about a one in 10 chance that another 7.0 quake could hit within the next week and the chance of a 5.0-magnitude quake “is approaching certainty”, Jones told reporters, adding that the new quake probably ruptured along about 25 miles of fault line and was part of a continuing sequence.Jones told the LA Times the fault that caused the quakes appears to be growing.“This happened at the end of the zone that moved previously,” Jones said, adding that the fault is now 25 to 30 miles long.“The fault is growing,” she said.California governor Gavin Newsom requested federal assistance and placed the state Office of Emergency Services (OES) on its highest alert.At a late-night news conference, OES director Mark Ghilarducci said: “We have significant reports of fires, structural fires, mostly as a result of gas leaks or gas line breaks.”The quake caused water main breaks and knocked out power and communications to parts of Ridgecrest, a city of about 27,000 about 125 miles north-east of Los Angeles. No fatalities or serious injuries were reported, police said. But Ghilarducci said the full damage would not be known until Saturday.“This was a very large earthquake, and we also know there’s going to be a series of aftershocks as a result of the main quake,” he said, adding his agency faced a “challenge” getting needed resources to the isolated quake zone.“This is not going to be something that’s going to be over right away.”In the hours after the 7.1 tremor, seismologists recorded more than 600 aftershocks. The quakes were not expected to trigger larger faults including the San Andreas.Ridgecrest residents were still recovering from Thursday’s quake. Most damage came from ruptured gas lines. About 3,000 people were left without power, according to Southern California Edison. Many said they would sleep outside than risk staying in their homes.A rockslide closed state route 178 in Kern River Canyon, where photos from witnesses showed that a stretch of roadway had sunk. Megan Person, director of communications for the Kern county fire department, said the county had opened a shelter. quake mapSan Bernardino county firefighters reported cracked buildings and one minor injury. In Los Angeles, 150 miles away, offices in skyscrapers rocked for at least 30 seconds. Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles fire department said more than 1,000 firefighters were mobilized. At Dodger Stadium the press box lurched for several seconds.As far away as Las Vegas, players and staff left the court after the earthquake was felt during an NBA summer league game between the New York Knicks and the New Orleans Pelicans. The US Geological Survey said it was felt in Mexico too. Communities in the Mojave were assessing damage after Thursday’s quake, which set fires and opened three cracks across a short stretch of state route 178 near the tiny town of Trona, said California transportation spokeswoman Christine Knadler. Bridges were being checked.The quakes were the most powerful in the region since 1994, when the 6.7 magnitude Northridge quake hit the heavily populated San Fernando Valley, causing 57 deaths and billions in dollars of damages.Southern California residents should expect more earthquakes in coming years, experts warned.“This is the first magnitude 6 quake in 20 years. It’s the longest interval we’ve ever had,” Jones told the Guardian. “We know that the last 20 years was abnormal … we should expect more earthquakes than we’ve been having recently.”She added: “Chances are, we’re going to have more earthquakes in the next five years than we’ve had in the last five years.”Los Angeles on Friday revealed plans to lower slightly the threshold for public alerts from its earthquake early warning app. The technology gave scientists at the California Institute of Technology’s seismology lab 48 seconds of warning on Friday but did not trigger a public notification.“Our goal is to alert people who might experience potentially damaging shaking, not just feel the shaking,” said Robert de Groot, a spokesman for the US Geological Survey’s ShakeAlert system, which is being developed for California, Oregon and Washington.The west coast ShakeAlert system has provided non-public earthquake notifications on a daily basis to test users including emergency agencies, industries, transportation systems and schools. Late last year, the city of Los Angeles released a mobile app intended to provide ShakeAlert warnings within Los Angeles county.The trigger threshold for the app required a magnitude 5 or greater and an estimate of level 4 on the separate Modified Mercali Intensity scale, at which there is potentially damaging shaking.Volunteers assist with cleanup at a library following the California earthquake. Photograph: Jessica Weston/APAlthough Thursday’s quake was well above magnitude 5, the expected shaking for the Los Angeles area was level 3, de Groot said. A revision of the magnitude threshold down to 4.5 was under way, but the shaking intensity level would remain at 4. The rationale is to avoid numerous alerts for small earthquakes that do not affect people.“If people get saturated with these messages, it’s going to make people not care as much,” he said.California is partnering with the federal government to build the system, with the goal of turning it on by June 2021. The state has already spent at least $ 25m building it, including installing hundreds of seismic stations throughout the state.



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California braced for mudslides and torrential rain after devastating storm

California braced for mudslides and torrential rain after devastating stormAuthorities have warned of the threat of mudslides after a damaging storm struck California, trapping people in floodwaters, triggering a debris flow which destroyed homes and forcing residents to flee communities scorched by wildfires last year. The powerful system swept in from the Pacific Ocean and unleashed rain, snow and wind across the US west coast into Wyoming and Colorado after walloping northern California and southern Oregon. The National Weather Service reported staggering rainfall amounts across California, including more than 24cm over 48 hours at one location in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles.



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Venezuela braced for rival protests as European deadline for Maduro to call election looms

Venezuela braced for rival protests as European deadline for Maduro to call election loomsTens of thousands of protesters were set to pour onto the streets of Caracas on Saturday to back opposition leader Juan Guaido's calls for early elections as international pressure increased on President Nicolas Maduro to step down. The demonstration comes as a general from the Venezuelan air force announced he no longer recognises Maduro as the country's president, in what appears to be the highest ranking military defection to hit the regime.  Major European countries have set a Sunday deadline for Mr Maduro to call snap presidential elections. Failing that, they will join the United States in recognising National Assembly speaker Mr Guaido as Venezuela's interim president. "Maduro's tyranny must end and must end now," US Vice President Mike Pence told a rally of exiled Venezuelans in Miami on the eve of the protest. Mr Guaido's call for a massive show of popular support coincides with a huge pro-Maduro demonstration. The ruling Socialist party celebrates the 20th anniversary of the rise to power of Hugo Chavez, Mr Maduro's deceased predecessor, on Saturday. The "clear goal" of the march was "to accompany the ultimatum given by members of the European Union," Mr Guaido said ahead of the march, which will begin outside the EU offices in eastern Caracas. "We are going to stage the biggest march in the history of Venezuela and our continent," he added. The rival marches will take place in different districts of a tense Venezuelan capital. Mr Maduro's supporters will concentrate in Plaza Bolivar in the heart of Caracas, 10 kilometers (six miles) from the EU offices. Clashes last week around the country left some 40 people dead, according to the United Nations. Chavez, the army officer whose oil-fueled spending raised millions of Venezuelans out of poverty, assumed office as Venezuela's president February 2, 1999 at the head of a socialist movement. Government supporters are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Hugo Chavez's rise to power Credit: Ariana Cubillos/AP His hand-picked successor, Mr Maduro, has presided over the oil-rich country's economic collapse and is widely denounced as a dictator for ruthlessly cracking down on dissent amid chronic shortages of food and medicines. Mr Guaido, 35, is trying to force the socialist leader from power so he can set up a transitional government and hold new presidential elections. The United States and a dozen Latin American countries rapidly recognised Mr Guaido after he declared himself acting president in a January 23 speech, posing a direct challenge to Mr Maduro's authority. European Parliament lawmakers recognised Mr Guaido on Thursday as the acting head of state. And four major European powers – Britain, France, Germany and Spain – have said they will do so if Mr Maduro fails to call presidential elections by midnight on Sunday. The international heave against Mr Maduro's leftist regime came after weeks of behind-the-scenes diplomacy including secret talks in Washington between Mr Guaido and US officials. "Nicolas Maduro will do well not to test the resolve of the United States of America," Pence warned on Friday. "Let me be very clear: this is no time for dialogue. This is time for action," the vice president said. "The time has come to end Maduro's dictatorship once and for all." In a letter to the presidents of Mexico and Uruguay published Friday, Mr Guaido ruled out any negotiations with Maduro unless they "start the transition process, culminating in the holding of free elections." Mexico's Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Uruguay's Tabare Vazquez have jointly called a conference in Montevideo next Thursday for "neutral" countries to discuss the crisis. Previous negotiations all had the same "unsatisfactory result," Mr Guaido wrote. "The dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has not changed its position. They have mocked the Venezuelan people to their face." The last 10 days of political upheaval have exacerbated economic meltdown in Venezuela, which has the world's largest proven oil reserves but has suffered hyperinflation and shortages of basic necessities. The UN says 2.3 million people have fled the country, unleashing a migration crisis in South America. Mr Guaido has acknowledged "clandestine meetings" with members of the armed forces and security forces, who he is trying to woo with an amnesty offer. So far, the military high command has remained loyal to Mr Maduro.



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Braced for air strikes on Syria, some airlines re-route flights

Braced for air strikes on Syria, some airlines re-route flightsBy Jamie Freed SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Some major airlines were re-routing flights on Wednesday after Europe’s air traffic control agency warned aircraft flying in the eastern Mediterranean to exercise caution due to possible air strikes into Syria. Eurocontrol said in a notification published on Tuesday afternoon that air-to-ground and cruise missiles could be used over the following 72 hours and there was a possibility of intermittent disruption to radio navigation equipment. U.S. President Donald Trump and Western allies are discussing possible military action to punish Syria’s President Bashar Assad for a suspected poison gas attack on Saturday on a rebel-held town that had long held out against government forces.



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