Scientist says 300-year overdue earthquake could cause thousands of deaths
Nick Juliano
Published: Friday August 10, 2007

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A government scientist warns a massive earthquake three centuries in the making could shake southern California hard enough to kill thousands of people and cause "billions of dollars in damage," according to news reports.

A devastating quake in California's Coachella Valley usually occurs every 150 years, but its been more than 300 years since a quake shook the region.

"There will be several thousand dead and billions of dollars in damage," said Lucy Jones, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Jones, a member of the California Seismic Safety Commission presented her "apocalyptic vision" to members of the earthquake safety panel at a meeting in Rancho Mirage, Calif., the same day a magnitude 4.6 earthquake hit another part of the state, the Times reported.

Scientists consider a quake along the San Andreas Fault in the Coachella Valley "a near inevitability," the Palm Springs Desert Sun reports, noting that such a quake could be the "most destructive natural disaster in U.S. history."

Palm Spring is one of two cities participating in a study on the effects of a magnitude 7.8 earthquake on the fault, the paper reports.

The USGS is preparing for the "big one" and focusing on areas that would be hardest hit, Jones said.

"Almost seven meters of slip built up on the fault since the last earthquake," Jones said, according to KNBC in Los Angeles. "The Coachella Valley would have the highest level of shaking magnified by the sand which would amplify the shaking."