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4 strong quakes hit Baja California

August 3, 2009 11:18:35 AM PDT
Four strong earthquakes have hit the Baja California area on Monday.The earthquakes shook the fishing villages along Mexico's Gulf of California, prompting alarm as far away as Phoenix.

The first earthquake was a 5.8-magnitude and hit 68 miles north, northeast of Santa Isabel, Baja California at 10:55 a.m., according to Caltech.

A 6.9-magnitude earthquake hit at 11 a.m. at the same place, then at 11:33 a.m., a 5.0-magnitude earthquake struck the same area again.

A fourth earthquake hit again at 11:40 a.m., magnitude 5.9.

There were no reports of any damage or injury.

"This magnitude-6.9 earthquake was on one of the faults of the Pacific-North American Plate Boundary, which is underwater in the Gulf of California," said Joanne Stock from Caltech. "So it's not near anybody's, where anyone's living. It's under the water and the nearest major cities are pretty far away."

Phoenix Fire Department spokesman Alex Rangel said a high-rise near downtown shook violently enough that workers evacuated but there were no reports of injuries or damage. The quake was located about 460 miles from downtown Phoenix.

The quake was also felt in San Diego, where city employees left an 18-story downtown tower that houses the city attorney and other departments.

"I was sitting in my office and all of a sudden it kind of felt like I was getting dizzy or something, and I looked up and saw the shades on my window starting to sway a bit and basically I thought 'Oh I wonder if this is an earthquake,'" said one woman in San Diego.

The quakes were all centered in the middle of the narrow slice of sea between the Baja peninsula and Mexico's mainland, which should help cut down on its chances of causing major damage, said Don Blakeman, an analyst at the center.

The area, which is also known as the Sea Of Cortez, was formed millions of years ago as the Pacific Plate moved north and shifted away from the North American Plate. The Baja Peninsula was formed, and the area is riddled with fault lines that run underwater.

It's a very busy seismic area. The area where the quakes occurred is part of the same system that runs inland into the Salton Sea and the San Andreas Fault.

"It's part of the same plate boundary fault system that goes up into California and it connects to the San Andreas Fault, but there's a number of zigzags in fault system between down there and up here," said Stock. "It is interesting because it tells you, of course, that part of the plate boundary is active, which we expect. It should be slipping on the average at the same rate as what's happening in California."

U.S. authorities said there was no tsunami threat to Hawaii or the Pacific coast of the United States. The Gulf of California coast was put on alert for large waves, said Alfredo Escobedo, the director of the Baja California civil protection service.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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