Ridgecrest Residents Fear Aftershocks

Jul 7, 2019
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

In the Mojave Desert town of Ridgecrest, Calif., the epicenter of this week's two big earthquakes, some families are choosing to sleep outdoors, afraid of bigger aftershocks. Others have even left the city. But many remain, stocking up on water, food and emergency supplies. NPR's Doualy Xaykaothao has the latest.

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO, BYLINE: At the local Stater Bros. grocery store, folks here are grabbing large jugs of water, cans of food, dried goods and whatever they can get their hands on. Outside, neighbors are seen asking after one another in the parking lot.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: You can't feel that. Did you feel that?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: No.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Twice now I felt them since we've been standing here.

XAYKAOTHAO: The magnitude 7.1 earthquake is all people are talking about. Ali Angel (ph), his wife and three kids felt that one and the quake on Independence Day. They live in a nearby mobile home community and have been sleeping outside since both quakes hit.

ALI ANGEL: Yeah. We spend the whole night right there in our truck. You can see it. We lay in our beds right there, our blankets. We sleep - everybody; as you can see, the neighbor as well.

XAYKAOTHAO: Next to his white truck, the pickup bed is filled with blue and gray blankets. A large generator sits next to the front tire. A trailer home next to them collapsed, so he's afraid of the next aftershock. His own parents left town, so he's not sure what to do, especially since his kids, particularly his little girl, has been crying a lot.

ANGEL: We don't know what to do when those things happen, when they're crying about it. But we as - all we can do is just hug them and be together in those moments.

XAYKAOTHAO: Tabitha Valdez (ph) feels much the same. She left the small community of Trona, hit worse than Ridgecrest, to be with her brother and his family.

TABITHA VALDEZ: We're just winging it. We have everything packed next to the door. We have things packed in our car. We are ready to go if anything happens - our keys. Our shoes are constantly on.

XAYKAOTHAO: Back in Trona, she said her grandmother's house split, roads buckled and she's not sure if the town has its gas or power back. There hasn't been water there for days. Right now in Ridgecrest, she's waiting for a free pizza, courtesy of a Little Caesars franchise, to take food home to the kids.

VALDEZ: I didn't feel comfortable coming here without my kids. But I was like, they're better at home than driving to go get food for them. So I'm just bracing myself. My anxiety is up the roof. I cry often. And I'm just like, I want this to end. I want to leave here. I want to go somewhere where this crap ain't happening.

XAYKAOTHAO: By now, despite the 101 degree heat, a line of earthquake victims is snaking around the parking lot, waiting for pizza to come out of the oven. Inside, Little Caesars franchise owner Johnny Baklini is grabbing water bottles and packing pepperoni pizzas into boxes.

JOHNNY BAKLINI: We're part of the community. We are left to be here. And at the end of the day, no one's taking anything with them. We're just here to help out and be part of it and do whatever we can to create smiles.

XAYKAOTHAO: He ended up giving 1,450 pizzas away, making many people very happy. Hours later, more aftershocks were reported. And seismologists predict more are coming.

Doualy Xaykaothao, NPR News, Ridgecrest, Calif.

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