A damaged house in Rio Dell. REUTERS/Fred Greaves

Utility crews worked through a second day on Wednesday to restore electricity, gas service and running water to thousands of homes and businesses left without basic necessities by an earthquake that rocked the extreme northern coast of California.

At least 17 quake-related injuries have been reported, along with two deaths associated with the magnitude 6.4 tremor, which struck before dawn on Tuesday offshore Humboldt County, some 250 miles north of San Francisco Bay.

Two elderly individuals counted as fatalities were determined to have had pre-existing health conditions and died as a result of medical emergencies they suffered during or just after the quake, preventing life-saving care from reaching them in time, the county sheriff’s office said.

Property inspections also continued a day after the quake, with at least 30 homes and a grocery store declared structurally unsafe from quake damage, officials said.

Most of the damage occurred in the hard-hit town of Rio Dell, whose 3,400 residents remained without running water on Wednesday, the county sheriff’s office reported. There were also reports of multiple gas line ruptures, including one blamed for a structure fire.

In the immediate aftermath of the quake on Tuesday, electricity was knocked out to some 79,000 homes and businesses countywide, but by Wednesday afternoon utility crews had restored power to all but about 1,700 customers, according to the electric grid tracking website PowerOutage.us.

The quake-battered bridge just outside the nearby town of Ferndale and the main route into that community were still closed as road crews continued making repairs.

Humboldt Sheriff William Hosnal proclaimed a local emergency on Wednesday, allowing the county to seek state and federal reimbursement for damage repairs and other disaster-related costs. The cities of Eureka and Rio Dell have done likewise.

On Tuesday night, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Humboldt County to support emergency response efforts there.

Humboldt County, a largely rural area a two-hour drive south of the Oregon border, is known for its redwood forests, local seafood, lumber industry and dairy farms. It also is a region where seismic activity is not uncommon, though the latest quake caused greater disruption than others in recent years.


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Ellen Bullock