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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 21:04 GMT
Arnie declares state of emergency
Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Schwarzenegger promised that devastated areas would be rebuilt
The Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has declared a state of emergency following the powerful earthquake which hit the state.

The declaration allows state resources to be used to pay for rescue and rebuilding work in the affected area.

The governor announced the move while visiting the town of Paso Robles, 300 km (185 miles) north of Los Angeles.

Two women died in the town, which was worst-hit by the quake, after a building collapsed.

These buildings may have crumbled under the quake, but I know for sure that the people will not buckle so easily
Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Republican governor and former movie star said more than 50 people had been injured in the severe quake, which had a magnitude of 6.5.

Forty buildings were damaged while 100,000 people across the state experienced power cuts.

"Today this is a site of devastation. But we will come together once again as Californians and as neighbours, we will rebuild the town square, we will restore the energy," he told local residents and reporters.

"These buildings may have crumbled under the quake, but I know for sure that the people will not buckle so easily. This will be your main street once again."

Mr Schwarzenegger, who took power on 17 November, offered his "heartfelt thanks" to rescue workers.

California is one of the most quake-prone regions of the world, being criss-crossed by the San Andreas Fault System.

The latest quake is thought to have struck the San Simeon fault, parallel to the San Andreas Fault.

Christmas shoppers

Historic Paso Robles suffered extensive damage, with buildings more than a century old bearing the brunt of the earthquake.

Rescue workers remove masonry and bricks from crushed cars in Paso Robles

The women, one aged 55 and the other aged 19, were killed by falling debris when the town's clock tower collapsed.

Residents described a scene of panic amid falling bricks, collapsing ceilings and panicked Christmas shoppers fleeing as buildings shuddered or collapsed.

Those injured suffered mainly from lacerations and broken bones caused by cut glass and flying debris, emergency workers said.

The quake also struck a tourist area in the town of San Simeon, shaking the castle of US press baron William Randolph Hearst. The building is reported to have suffered no structural damage.

'Fortunate'

A spokesman for the US Geological Survey told reporters that it was fortunate that the earthquake occurred far from densely populated areas.

He said a similar-sized earthquake located under a city such as Los Angeles could have caused billions of dollars worth of damage.

The spokesman said the earthquake had triggered a vigorous system of smaller aftershocks, but there was nothing to suggest a bigger quake was imminent.

But he added that the chances of the region experiencing a bigger earthquake in the future were now higher than before the latest earthquake struck.

Earthquakes in California are not uncommon. The North Ridge Earthquake in Los Angeles in 1994 measured 6.7 and left 57 people dead and 1,500 people injured.

The latest earthquake was the most powerful in California since a 7.1 quake struck the desert near Joshua Tree more than four years ago.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Juliet Dunlop
"There have been several aftershocks and geologists are warning they may continue for a few days yet"



SEE ALSO:
In pictures: California quake
23 Dec 03  |  Photo Gallery
Project to drill into Earth fault
05 Dec 03  |  Science/Nature
Deadly history of earthquakes
26 Sep 03  |  In Depth
State profile: California
22 Dec 03  |  Americas


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