A large earthquake caused significant damage and left three people critically injured in California's northern Bay Area early yesterday, igniting fires, sending at least 87 people to a hospital, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness.
Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Napa, directing state agencies to help respond to the 6.0-magnitude quake.
Two adults and one child have critical injuries and Queen of the Valley hospital has treated 87 people, the city of Napa in California wine country said.
Most patients have cuts, bumps, bruises, said Vanessa DeGier, spokeswoman for the hospital in Napa. She said the facility had treated a hip fracture and heart attack, but it's unclear if it was related to the 6.0-magnitude earthquake. The hospital has set up a triage tent and many people were still coming in, DeGier said.
The quake caused six significant fires, including at a mobile home part, Napa Division Fire Chief Darren Drake said. Four mobile homes were destroyed and two others damaged, the city said. Several other smaller fires were reported and firefighting efforts were complicated by broken water mains.
The earthquake struck just before 3.30 am about 10 kilometres southwest of Napa, said Leslie Gordon of the US Geological Survey said.
It's the largest earthquake to shake the Bay Area since the 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta quake in 1989, the USGS said. That earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay Area on October 17, 1989, collapsing part of the Bay Bridge roadway and killing more than 60 people, most when an Oakland freeway fell.
"There's collapses, fires," said Napa Fire Captain Doug Bridewell. "That's the worst shaking I've ever been in."
Three historic buildings in Napa were damaged, including the county courthouse, and at least two downtown commercial buildings were severely damaged. A Red Cross evacuation centre was set up at a high school and crews were assessing damage to homes.
The shaking emptied cabinets in homes and store shelves, set off car alarms and had residents of neighbouring Sonoma County running out of their houses and talking about damage inside their homes. Officials say widespread power outages were reported in the area.
"It was a rolling quake," said Oakland resident Rich Lieberman. "It started very much like a rolling sensation and just got progressively worse in terms of length. Not so much in terms of shaking, but it did shake. It felt like a side-to-side kind of rolling sensation. Nothing violent but extremely lengthy and extremely active."
The USGS said the depth of the earthquake was just less than 11 kilometres, and numerous small aftershocks occurred in the Napa wine country.
"A quake of that size in a populated area is of course widely felt throughout that region," said Randy Baldwin, a geophysicist with the US Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado. "The 6.0 is a sizeable quake for this area. We received hundreds of reports on our website from people that felt it in the surrounding area."
In Napa, city spokesman Barry Martin there was significant damage.