Massive California earthquake rips small church, forces congregants at another to scatter

First Baptist Church in Trona, California
Earthquake damage in the yard of the First Baptist Church in Trona, California. |

A powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake in Southern California ripped a small church and forced congregants at another to scatter during a worship service Friday night. 

The earthquake struck at 8:19 p.m. and was centered 11 miles from Ridgecrest, the same area where a 6.4-magnitude earthquake had struck a day earlier, leaving deep cracks in foundations and buildings and triggering fires and other infrastructure damage.

“Lots of damage to the church building. But we thank the Lord that everyone is all right. We were thinking today how grateful we are that the first earthquake happened on the Fourth of July so families were home together. God is so full of Grace,” First Baptist Church in Trona posted on Facebook Saturday.

“As you may guess we will not be able to celebrate our church anniversary with a barbecue tomorrow as there is much work to do in the fellowship hall. We will have a regular service at 11 AM in the sanctuary. There will be no nursery or Sunday school tomorrow nor evening service. We have heard from many and so far everyone seems to be all right. Now we’ll just start the cleanup process assess any damage and move on. We want to thank the Lord for the safety that he’s given us through these last few days."

Photos shared by the church on social media showed damage to the church yard as well as inside the church building. Pastor Larry Cox told the Los Angeles Times that despite the damage the church suffered they still served as a water station and had the men of the congregation go from home to home to check in on “widows and shut-ins” in the small town of 2,000.

First Baptist Church in Trona
The earthquake-damaged roof of First Baptist Church in Trona, California. |

“If there’s another big one, Trona will be gone,” 76-year-old RoseAnn Austin, who has lived in the town since 1963, told the Times.

Fire officials told ABC News that up to 50 structures were damaged in Trona and noted that FEMA delivered a tractor-trailer full of bottled water because of damage to water lines. The quake left more than $100 million in economic damage.

Julia Doss, who maintains the Trona Neighborhood Watch page on Facebook, said the only food store in town is a Family Dollar store that was closed Saturday.

"The only way to get food is to drive to Ridgecrest, and with only three gas stations in town I'm worried we may soon run out of fuel," Doss said.

In Loma Linda, Jonielle Belonio‏ revealed on Twitter that congregants fled her church as the earthquake struck on Friday.

“Singing ‘When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with you above the storm. Father you are king over the flood, I will be still know you are God’ as the earthquake hits and the congregation runs out of the church gym in Loma Linda,” she tweeted.

Rocky Twyman, a resident of Montgomery County in Maryland, who offered prayers for those impacted by the earthquakes along with other members of the Converted Heart CME in Silver Spring, Maryland, told Local DVM that he has a good friend named Dr. Alpha Omega Curry who is in Southern California and felt the blow.

“Well it just broke my heart to hear her break down like that,” Twyman said.

“She said the shaking was so fierce,” he continued. “So I don’t know how badly her house has been damaged or anything because since the 7.1 earthquake, I can’t even reach her.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom warned Saturday that governments must strengthen alert systems and building codes, and residents should make sure they know how to protect themselves during an earthquake, according to an ABC News report.

"It is a wake-up call for the rest of the state and other parts of the nation, frankly," Newsom said at a news conference.

Friday's earthquake was the largest one to hit Southern California in nearly 20 years. Officials warned about the possibility of major aftershocks in the days and even months to come.

Newsom said President Donald Trump called him to offer federal support in the rebuilding effort.

"He's committed in the long haul, the long run, to help support the rebuilding efforts," Newsom said of Trump.

Egill Hauksson, a Caltech seismologist, said Saturday the probability of a magnitude 7 earthquake over the next week was about 3%, with one or two magnitude 6 quakes expected. By Sunday morning, however, the forecast dropped to just a 1% chance of a magnitude 7 or higher in the next week, and a rising possibility of magnitude 6 earthquakes.

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