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Earthquake shakes Southern California

LOS ANGELES -- A strong earthquake shook Southern California on Tuesday, causing buildings to sway and triggering some precautionary evacuations. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The jolt was felt from Los Angeles to San Diego, and slightly in Las Vegas.

The Governor's Office of Emergency Services had received no damage or injury reports, said spokesman Kelly Huston in Sacramento. The state operations center in Sacramento and the regional emergency operations center in Los Alamitos were activated, he said.

The 11:42 a.m. PDT quake was initially estimated at 5.8 but was revised downward to magnitude-5.4, said seismologist Kate Hutton of the U.S. Geological Survey office in Pasadena. More than a dozen aftershocks quickly followed. The largest were magnitude-3.8.

The quake was centered 29 miles east-southeast of downtown Los Angeles near the San Bernardino County city of Chino Hills.

The magnitude-5.9 Whittier Narrows quake in 1987 was the last big shake in that area. That quake heavily damaged older buildings and houses in communities east of Los Angeles.

Huston urged Southern California residents to check for damage to their homes, including problems with the electrical and natural gas systems that could worsen in an aftershock.

Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said there were no immediate reports of damage or injury in Los Angeles. San Bernardino and San Diego counties also had no immediate reports of damage.

Buildings swayed in downtown Los Angeles for several seconds.

Workers quickly evacuated some office buildings.

"It was dramatic. The whole building moved and it lasted for a while," said Los Angeles County sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore, who was in the sheriff's suburban Monterey Park headquarters east of Los Angeles.

As strongly as it was felt, the quake was far less powerful than the magnitude-6.7 Northridge earthquake that badly damaged the region on Jan. 17, 1994. That quake was the last damaging temblor in Southern California.

No electrical outages were reported in Los Angeles because of the quake, said Department of Water and Power spokeswoman Kim Hughes.

In Orange County, about 2,000 detectives were attending a gang conference at a Marriott hotel in Anaheim when a violent jolt shook the main conference room.

Mike Willever, who was at the hotel, said, "First we heard the ceiling shaking, then the chandelier started to shake, then there was a sudden movement of the floor."

Chris Watkins, from San Diego, said he previously felt several earthquakes, but "that was one of the worst ones."

Delegates and guests at a cluster of hotels near the Disneyland resort spilled into the streets immediately after the quake.

Huston, the governor's OES spokesman, said officials in Sacramento were on a conference call when the earthquake struck, discussing the availability of firefighting equipment with a Southern California emergency management team.

"They felt it. We could actually hear some shaking on the phone. Now we've completely shifted gears — we're on earthquakes," Huston said.

Joseph Maddalena, who runs the historical documents and memorabilia dealer Profiles in History, was on the phone in his office in Calabasas, near Malibu, when the earthquake struck. He quickly put down the phone and ran to check on his 14-year-old son who had come to work with him as he prepared for a Thursday auction of 1,100 pieces of Hollywood movie memorabilia.

"Our building shook pretty good," he said after discovering his son and his employees were unharmed and the building was fine.

"The window in my office kind of bowed out but it's all right now. Everything is fine," he said.

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