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Updated: Sun, 24 Aug 2014 12:15:37 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

California earthquake, magnitude 6.0, shakes thousands awake



Gurbeer Singh cleans up at a 7-11 store in American Canyon, Calif., which was the epicentre of magnitude 6.0 earthquake early Sunday morning. Ben Margot/Associated Press

Gurbeer Singh cleans up at a 7-11 store in American Canyon, Calif., which was the epicentre of magnitude 6.0 earthquake early Sunday morning. Ben Margot/Associated Press

Several fires broke out and thousands were cut off from power north of San Francisco after a powerful earthquake early Sunday morning.

The 6.0 magnitude earthquake hit around 3:20 a.m. local time, the U.S. Geological Survey said, and could easily be felt by San Francisco Bay Area residents.

The quake's epicentre was eight kilometres northwest of the town of American Canyon, about 60 kilometres north of San Francisco. Napa and Sonoma — two nearby tourist destinations known for their wineries — were​ some of the hardest hit areas, with tens of thousands of residents cut off from power according to the utility company PG&E​.

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Two major injuries have been reported, and hospitals have been busy coping with moderate injuries throughout the morning, Napa Division Fire Chief John Callanan said.

The quake also caused six significant fires, including one that engulfed four mobile homes. The damage from the fires is not yet clear but it appears significant, Napa Division Fire Chief Darren Drake said.

Several other smaller fires have been reported, but firefighting efforts have been complicated by broken water mains.

"There's collapses, fires," said Napa Fire Capt. Doug Bridewell, standing in front of large pieces of masonry that broke loose from a turn of the century office building where a fire had just been extinguished. "That's the worst shaking I've ever been in."

Bridewell said he had to climb over fallen furniture in his own home to check on his family before reporting to duty.

Strong, shallow quake

California Highway Patrol Officer Daniel Hill told KTVU-TV that road damage appears confined to the Napa and Sonoma areas. He said there appears to be no damage to major bridges in the Bay Area.

The USGS says the quake was the largest earthquake to shake the Bay Area since the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta quake in 1989

The depth of the earthquake was just less than 11 kilometres, and numerous small aftershocks have occurred in the nearby Napa wine country shortly after, the USGS said. 

"The 6.0 is a sizeable quake for this area," said Randy Baldwin, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo., adding its depth would be considered a "shallow quake."

"It started very much like a rolling sensation and just got progressively worse in terms of length," said Oakland resident Rich Lieberman.

"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 asked others who felt the quake to share with them what it felt like for future research. 

The agency also warned the Napa area will likely get 30 to 70 smaller aftershocks — between 3 and 5 magnitute — over the next week.

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