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Magnitude 4.4 quake hits near Los Angeles: USGS

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The US city of Los Angeles was awoken just before dawn on Monday by a relatively powerful magnitude 4.4 earthquake, but there were no immediate reports of casualties. 

Residents of the Hollywood neighbourhood said they were shaken by the quake, which lasted just a few seconds. Burglar alarms went off but there did not appear to be any damage in the area.

The temblor was initially estimated as a 4.7 magnitude by the US Geological Survey (USGS), but later downgraded to 4.4.

“I was getting ready in the bathroom and all of a sudden I felt it jolt,” LA resident Yvonne Villanueva told the KTLA TV station, adding: “You always have the big one in the back of your head.”

The quake was centered 10km north-west of Beverly Hills and struck at 6.25am local time.

“I woke up to feel the building swaying from side to side,” resident Wes Lashley told KTLA.

The quake came a week after a powerful 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of northern California, the biggest in years.

California has long braced for the “Big One.” The western state is on the so-called Ring of Fire, which circles the Pacific and has produced a number of devastating quakes including Japan’s March 2011 quake-tsunami, which killed thousands of people.

Geologists say a quake capable of causing widespread destruction is 99 per cent certain of hitting California in the next 30 years.

A magnitude 7.8 quake could kill 1,800 people, injure 50,000 more and damage 300,000 buildings.

A 6.7-magnitude earthquake in Los Angeles left at least 60 people dead and did an estimated US$10 billion (S$12.65 billion) damage in 1994, while a 6.9 quake in San Francisco in 1989 claimed the lives of 67 people.