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Interview With Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA); Earthquake Strikes California; USGS: At Least 73 Aftershocks After 6.4 Earthquake Strikes Southern California, Felt in L.A. & Vegas; Ahead: Trump to Speak at Controversial July 4th Event. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 4, 2019 - 16:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake striking Southern California, the largest in decades, centered near the town of Ridgecrest.

Welcome to this special edition of THE LEAD. I'm Dana Bash, in for Jake.

The Kern County Fire Department says they're responding to house fires, like the one you're seeing there. And in Ridgecrest, the regional hospital is being evacuated. In Los Angeles, the long rolling quake made buildings sway back and forth for several seconds.

There have been more than 50 -- 50 -- aftershocks, with more expected.

I want to get straight to Los Angeles. Sara Sidner is there.

Sara, what kind of damage is being reported as of this hour?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are hearing from the mayor there in Ridgecrest that there are at least five fires that have been burning, that they know that they are our gas lines that have ruptured, which can be extremely dangerous. There can be explosions.

So there's a lot of rescue crews out. We have heard from the fire department that they are going on emergency calls for potential injuries as well. It was centered there in Ridgecrest, about 156 miles northeast of here in Los Angeles. But it was certainly felt here as well.

And just about an hour away, in San Bernardino, which is more than 100 miles away from where the epicenter was, they are talking about potential cracks in buildings and some rockslides and some structures that are damaged.

So this was a very big event that hasn't been seen in Southern California in quite some time, as you mentioned. And we should also mention that we are now hearing from seismologists that this may not have just been one particular quake, one event, that two different faults may have ruptured in this -- during the 6.4 event there in the Ridgecrest area, which would explain some of the damage that we're seeing.

We're also seeing big cracks in one of the highways there, one of the small highways there in the -- in and around the Ridgecrest area from social media. We're also hearing from people who are feeling these aftershocks, one after another after another. At least 58 aftershocks have happened since the 6.4 earthquake that struck in Ridgecrest.

And the regional hospital, the one that serves basically everyone in that area and surrounding areas, is now evacuating people. The reason for the evacuation hasn't been spelled out exactly, but, generally speaking, the reason for evacuations in a place like a hospital, where they're caring for patients and any kind of emergencies, is because they are concerned about the structure of that particular building.

And so that is a significant event happening too, a lot of people feeling scared, a lot of people shaken by this both physically and emotionally. The mayor telling people something very important. If you are OK, if everything is fine in your home, but you haven't heard from a neighbor, go check on them.

And that, I'm sure, is happening in the Ridgecrest area now, but this was a significant, moderately large earthquake, a 6.4. Haven't seen that in quite some time in this area, and it is significant to people who felt it here. It went on for several seconds.

We certainly felt it where we were. The whole building, a 15-story building, was shaking -- Dana.

BASH: And, Sara, on that, obviously, you're reporting on what's going on there, but you were also part of it.


BASH: You said that -- I mean, I have been to that building. It is quite a large building to have it shake.


BASH: You're supposed to be trained in this, as an Angeleno. But it's a quite a different thing when it actually happens.

SIDNER: Absolutely.

And because we have not felt one that that was this large -- certainly, in L.A., it was nowhere near a 6.4. That was the epicenter, but we felt it for several seconds. And that is where you really notice everything sort of swaying. We know that on the first floor that the folks down there actually felt the ground ripple.

But, above that, you sort of felt the whole building sway, and then as you look outside, you could see these light poles swaying just slightly. And, of course, we have a camera on the very top of the building that showed right as it happened. The cameras started jumping up and down.

A lot of folks in Los Angeles have been told, because this is such a large population of people in the largest populated cities in the country, not to call 911, unless you have an injury or an emergency, because those phone lines can be flooded and can actually hurt those who actually need help.

But so far, the good news is that here in the Los Angeles area, where the population is very large, no reports of injuries, no reports of any kind of damage here, but, Ridgecrest, another scenario, and the mayor telling us there are several fires burning, there are gas lines that have been ruptured, and there are people who have been calling for help -- Dana.

BASH: Sara, thank you so much for all of that reporting.

You talked about Ridgecrest.

Joining me now on the phone is House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who represents that area and its surrounding areas in Congress.

Mr. Leader, thank you so much for calling in.


First, how serious is the damage in your district?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Well, we're assessing it right now.

And as the reporter was just talking about, they have taken people out of the hospital. I was just talking to Mayor Peggy Breeden. They are taking people out of the hospital to assess the hospital, but they are -- reported about five different fires. These are gas leaks and others.

Now, in Ridgecrest, this is an eastern portion of Kern County. We have a Naval base there, China Lake Naval Weapons Center. And it's very important. So, they will be assessing the damage there as well.

But you have Bakersfield. And when you're talking about Los Angeles feeling it, that's more than two-and-a-half-hours away that they're feeling this. So, you have got to think how large a quake this is.

And it hasn't been just one, as you know. Earlier this week, we have had a little closer to L.A. and where this county is as well, Kern County, there's about 12 different earthquakes.

And if you live to California, you live through many of these. I have lived through many of them, but this one is different. This is stronger. This is -- when that Northridge earthquake, where highways fell down, that was stronger than this, but this is a significant earthquake.

And, right now, we're somewhat fortunate. There's not as much damage for how large a quake this is, but we're assessing all the damage now.

BASH: OK, let me tick through a couple of things that you just mentioned. First, the hospital. The fact that they are evacuating, again, just to assess damage, I mean, that's no small thing to evacuate a hospital.


In this community, this is the hospital. And so this community -- this is out towards the Mojave Desert. The epicenter was Trona. And you think how far -- I was getting calls from people's buildings in L.A. shaking two-and-a-half-hours away.

But you have now got gas leaks going. You try to assess the highways as well, if there's cracks within there. So we have got the emergency units out there looking. We have got a lot of 911 calls.

But if you lived in Ridgecrest, things were coming off your shelves. This is a significant earthquake.

BASH: And gas leaks. You talk about gas leaks. It sounds very scary and is and possibly could be very scary.

It's something that people expect with earthquakes and then, of course, the aftershocks. How concerned are you about what could happen with those gas leaks?

MCCARTHY: Well, it's concern, but the gas company there, you have got to make sure you're shutting down the line where the quakes hit.

What is concerning, though, too is the number of aftershocks we had. And, normally, I'm no expert, but I have just lived through my life -- where you have a very big quake and then you have the other ones, there's usually different type of quakes, like a rolling one or a shaking.

This was more of a shaking one than a rolling one. And the large quake happened after we had one about 4.2. So that was concerning to me that the largest was a little later. I'm hopeful that was the largest one we're going to have.

And, normally, these aftershocks are a little less. But there are a number of aftershocks, more so than I feel that we have had in the past.

BASH: And quickly back to the hospital, you mentioned it's close to the Mojave Desert.

This is July. Bringing patients out of a hospital close to the desert means it's extremely hot.


BASH: Are you concerned about the fact that people not only in and around this hospital, but in your district more broadly, are now likely most of them are going to be having to potentially deal without power?

MCCARTHY: It would be a real case. That's what we're evaluating right now.

I can't thank the first-responders enough and the help from the others. We also have the military base there that we have to assess that is very critical for our national defense for -- and it's the air corridor that we use, so all through there.

But you do want to make sure the safety of the patient, especially when there's other gas leaks -- there's none that have been reported yet in the hospital. But the one thing in California, we have to build to a certain code, and an earthquake code is one that we build to.

But this is so close to the epicenter and such a large quake that we do have to evaluate that before patients are allowed back in. If they are not, then we're really going to have to move people more than an hour away.

BASH: More than an hour away.

OK. You have mentioned a couple of times the Naval base. This is obviously in your district. They're assessing the damage, you said. What exactly does that mean? And talk a little bit about what this Naval base is all about.

MCCARTHY: Well, if you take the China Lake Naval Weapons Center, and you go down that air corridor door to Edwards Air Force Base as well, this is the epicenter of where this movement is.

This is more the testing of missiles and others. The labs there are very important. It's more in the air that they're testing. But you just want to make sure you evaluate all that, that it's that close.

But what's fortunate for us and for that city, how well the military and the city works together, the resources you have for both. And right now we want to make sure everybody's safe. We haven't had any reports of casualties, but we're just assessing, putting out the fires that we have, and making sure the buildings are still standing.


BASH: Can you explain -- you mentioned weapons and weapon -- missile testing?

That sounds pretty dangerous for a place that just had a major earthquake. Can you describe what's in -- what's actually in this base, without giving national security issues away?


MCCARTHY: What you test in this base is -- it's Mojave Desert. So there's not a lot.

It's the airspace. It's the 2508 airspace. So, what they do is they test the aircraft from Edwards Air Force Base. And China Lake is the mind power to building the technology.

And at times they will test it out there. But it's not a fear for any of that at this point...


BASH: So, you have not heard from any of the officials there?


MCCARTHY: No. We have checked in with everybody.

BASH: And they think it's -- everything is safe?


BASH: Including more important -- I mean, the people, but also the weapons?



MCCARTHY: Because the weapons, the weapons come on the airplanes, and the airplanes are not there.

BASH: Copy.

You talk about the fact that obviously you don't just represent this district. You're a lifelong California.

Was your district and this whole area prepared for this?

MCCARTHY: One thing, if you live in California, you're prepared, but you're never prepared enough.

My main city, Bakersfield, in the '50s got totally wiped out by an earthquake. You have been through the Northridge. And the timing of when an earthquake happens also matters about what happens.

When the Northridge hit, it was early in the morning, so there wasn't a lot of people on the road when the highways collapsed. We have continued to build to a higher standard to be able to sustain these.

But any time you get an earthquake coming up over 5, when it gets into the 6's, these are major quakes, when you remember what -- like the World Series in San Francisco and others.

Something, you don't get a report from the weather station that one is coming. That's the challenge that you have in an earthquake. And the other thing is, they happen. You have lived through many of them, but some of them are smaller. So you wonder. And the training is always there from the day you go into school and out, where you get to the doorway, what happens within a quake, that you prepare yourself that you have the food and water sitting in your house and others.

Right now, if I took a quick assessment, I think we're very fortunate. The size of this earthquake and what's being reported is less. I was in an earthquake that was over on the coast a number of years ago that had an epicenter, where the buildings started coming in on us. And one building collapsed and one person did die.

But the roads were up above. And it became a real challenge to travel. It was over in San Luis.

But, today, getting the rest of the assessments, it'll take a little time, because this is a large space within Mojave. But, right now, we're fortunate. And the teams are working very closely together, and everybody's cooperating.

BASH: Are your constituents still in danger?

MCCARTHY: The only telling is you do not know based upon, are there more quakes coming?

We're getting these aftershocks. And as long as these aftershocks are not as strong, we're in a pretty good place. But I think everybody working together right now, we get the gas leaks taken care of. We make sure the hospital is safe.

I think we're going to have damage here. And this is where we will have helpful. Probably, talking to the mayor, they may have to declare an emergency in Ridgecrest. And this is what -- we will come back and make sure that we're able to help them in their time of need.

BASH: And one last question, because we know you got to go back to working the phones.

The president, we understand from the White House that the president has been briefed on this. I know you speak to him pretty regularly. Have you heard from him or spoken him or anybody at the White House yet? I know it's early.

MCCARTHY: I was just talking to the president last night. We traded calls here going through. And I'm probably going to talk to him. But I thought I would talk to you and then give him a call back.

BASH: Well, thanks for having your priorities right.



BASH: Appreciate it. Thank you so much. Good luck to you and all your constituents.

MCCARTHY: All right. Thank you.

BASH: And we really appreciate that update.

Thank you, Mr. Leader.

MCCARTHY: OK. Thank you. Bye.

BASH: And let's get straight to CNN meteorologist Tom Sater, who is in the CNN Severe Weather Center. Tom, you just heard Kevin McCarthy talking about what it feels like

there, talking about the fact that he can't say whether people are still in danger because of all the aftershocks that we have already seen, 58, and everybody expects more to come.

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And let me just give you an updated number.

We have now picked up 73 aftershocks.

BASH: Wow.

SATER: We have been covering these over at CNN International, it seems like every other week.

Anything that is 6.0 or stronger, we get e-mails and alerts and everything. On the real big ones, you may have aftershocks for days and weeks, even months, but I have never seen in any quake of any magnitude, even stronger than this, where we have had such a swarm of them.

Now, to back up just a little bit, the last couple of weeks, the last three weeks, really, there's been a lot of concern up in California on these swarms, these tremors that have been taking place, and many have been wondering, well, is this going to lead us to something stronger?

[16:15:07] In many cases around the world, I mean, we're on the ring of fire, that can't happened. But you just never know.

So, let's back up and review for those that have been following. A 6.4 occurred at 10:33. At 10:05, we have a foreshock. That was the 4.7. Some areas, we have 4.1. But that's the foreshock.

If we happen to see a quake develop that is stronger than 6.4, that will become the original quake. Let's hope that doesn't happen and this will be a foreshock. But we're seeing so much energy right now, and a depth of only five miles deep, which means the wave activity was able to travel farther, because it wasn't so deep into the earth.

Let's break this out, this is a shake map from the USGS, so you get a better idea of who felt what. Very strong shaking, 42,000, that's Ridgecrest. I mean, there are over 30,000 people there.

For the first time today, one official, Dana, told us, it's not all bad. It's not all good. He said, besides the fires and gas leaks, they're evaluating the hospital, there's major damage, the first time we heard major damage at a hotel. If there's one with major damage, there will be others. No one fell severe, violent or extreme.

However, you come up to light shaking, there's 21 million people. I mean, that's L.A. You got another over 2 million that felt light shaking. These are what we call pagers, they're given to us by the USGS. They put all the information of population, the strength, the aftershocks, everything, and gives us a little bit of an idea.

Now, no one wants to talk about fatalities, but you want to see green on this pager. It tells us, the estimated fatalities, about 65 percent chance no one died. Unfortunately, they give us a 30 percent chance of 1 to 10.

So far, the news is good, but they have another pager. And this computer model deals with economic possible losses, 35 percent change, the greatest chance in yellow to have $10 million and $100 million. It doesn't take long when you have infrastructure problems like the highway we're seeing, or this hotel, insurance claims for homes, any little fracture, split crack in a foundation, any home or business that's been compromised could have more damage if these swarms of these earthquakes aftershocks continue.

Also, there would be days and weeks of inspections going on. If we're seeing that kind of damage on a roadway, you can bet every hospital, home, big, school, a bridge is going to be looked at. We still have the possibility to have at least one aftershock that's 5.4 or greater. History tells us that happens, and as Dr. Jones told us earlier, the seismologist, she maybe expect this in the next 24 hours.

So, everyone's nerves are rattled. Anxiety is high. Fears are still growing. It's going to be a long couple days as these aftershocks most likely will continue.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Yes, brace yourself, 5.4 is no small thing.

Just real quick, we have on the screen there, and you just gave us an updated number of 73 aftershocks so far.


BASH: Can you put that in context? Is that typically for 6.4? Or is that more than people who are used to earthquakes are used to?

SATER: You know, when we cover large up quakes like in Indonesia, or up to Japan or Papua New Guinea, I mean, you'll see 6.4, 6.6, and sometimes you have stronger, as mentioned. But, again, if we get in closer on this map, there's all these yellow dots. There are just small quakes within the last week.

But when you get in tighter here, if I can get my producer do it, you're going to see what's happened in the last day. He must be -- here we go, and the oranges the last, this is the last day, this is all the activity today. We'll continue to getting closer.

Dana, all these red dots are in the last hour. So, this is extreme activity that we're seeing from our initial quake, down to the southwest, Ridgecrest is right here. This is where it gets interesting. If we have these quakes or these aftershocks continuing toward the community, any home or business that's been compromised, integrity of the building could have further damage.

This is not going to stop at dusk. I mean, this is what makes the overnight period readily frightening. If you smell gas or anything or feel you can't stay in the home, you have to get out for the day and for the night.

BASH: Very important advice, thank you so much for all of that information.

We're now looking at live pictures of Ridgecrest, California, which is the epicenter of that earthquake.

As we do that, I want to go to the phone, joining me is Mick Gleason, who's the supervisor of Kern County, California, which includes Ridgecrest.

Thank you so much for joining on the phone.

First, give us your brought assessment of what you know at this time.

MICK GLEASON, KERN COUNTY DISTRICT SUPERVISOR (via telephone): Well, we have a 6.4. We have activated the Kern county emergency operation center. We've mobilized as many resources as we can.

[16:20:02] We made contact with all our political allies. Everywhere we can get support is pouring in, and things are moving along nicely.

BASH: And one of things that seem alarming is the hospital, the hospital which is according to Kevin McCarthy, is the hospital in that area is being evacuated. And that's what you're looking at right now on the screen.

Explain how things are going, and if there was a real reason to be alarmed, if there was damage internally, --gas leak, any like that -- or if this is just a precaution.

GLEASON: There's always -- there's always a danger there, and this is a precaution, and there are some issues with the structure. So the president has taken the responsible task and moving the patients from one ward to other wards, and we're moving people out of the hospital and putting them places that are neighboring facilities can help them out.

BASH: There's still power, as far as you know?

GLEASON: Yes, there's a lot of power. In most places, there are power outage -- reports of power outage, but things go, with 109 degrees, 110 degrees out there, so we've got to be on top of things and make sure we get these patients and people that are being relocated into facilities that can accommodate their needs.

BASH: Yes, I mean, power is always important for a hospital, but in 109 degrees, that plus plus.

Injuries, or, God forbid, any fatalities? Have you heard of any in your county?

GLEASON: So far, so good. So far, no injury reports, no fatalities. The reports we're getting reports of people are scared, people are concerned, people are confused. We're doing the best we can to respond to 911 calls and talk to as many people as we can.

We have mobilized a lot of resources. So I'm sure we're making good headway and I want to thank all the first responders for being there and being so diligence in what they do. They really made a big help for us.

BASH: Absolutely. We join you in that thanks and applause.

But on that note, the -- we just heard or expert in our weather center talking about the fact that the aftershocks in something in this quake, one of them could get as big as 5.4, which is a huge earthquake. So --

GLEASON: That's not what we need.

BASH: It's not what you need exactly. So, how -- as somebody who is in charge of this county, one of the leaders there, what is your message to the people who are living there and how to prepare, or even can they for that?

GLEASON: I think it's common sense. I think take care of where you're at, your immediate vicinity, check your building. If you have issues get out of the building. If you smell gas, get out of the building. Go check on your neighbor. Make sure your neighbor is doing OK.

Communicate, get down to city hall and talk to people and get the resources we have available and communicate, and we'll get through this together.

BASH: Thank you so much, you're a very busy man, and you're working to coordinate all of this. We appreciate your time. And stay in touch and good luck with everything. We're hoping that 5.4 doesn't actually come.

GLEASON: Thank you very much.

BASH: Thank you.

And we have much more coverage on this breaking news coming up.

Plus, we're going to turn to the president and promises for the show of a lifetime, as many worry his Independence Day plans are dividing Americans. We're going to go live to the National Mall, next.


[16:27:54] BASH: We're continuing to follow the breaking news. A 6.4 earthquake striking southern California with more than 70 aftershocks reported so far.

We're going to have more in a few minutes, but we're going to turn to our politics lead.

In just a couple hours, President Trump will be speaking at the Lincoln Memorial for his Salute to America event. White House officials say the president is hoping for an enormous crowd. Well, a source tell CNN that military chiefs are concerned about politicizing Independence Day.

Our team of reporters is covering the story from all angles. We want to start with Abby Phillip near the Lincoln Memorial.

Abby, the president urged his followers on Twitter to get to the National Mall early. What are you hearing from your sources about what he's actually going to say in the speech tonight?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, the White House has been saying that this speech is under development, but the president is going to call to America's collective patriotism. He's going to highlight the economy and also highlight what he's done for veterans.

But there are still some questions about whether President Trump who's known to do this will go off-script, making this already controversial event potentially political.


PHILLIP (voice-over): In less than two hours, President Trump finally getting his military-focused Fourth of July celebration.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to have plane flying overhead. The best fighter jets in the world, and other planes, too. And we're going to have some tanks stationed outside.

PHILLIP: White House aides tell CNN that after Trump's disappointment with the crowds on the National Mall for his inauguration, he's hoping round two will deliver.

Already, Trump raising expectations, claiming people are coming from far and wide to fill the Mall. But with heightened security, 90- degree temperatures and a flood watch in the forecast, the event may know live up to the president's wishes.

Aides have been working overtime to fill the massive space, distributing tickets to Trump's political allies, including through his reelection campaign.

The last-minute scramble to put on a military show for Independence Day coming after Trump witnessed this Bastille Day event in France in 2017.

TRUMP: It was a tremendous thing, and to a large extent you because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July 4th in Washington, down Pennsylvania Avenue.

PHILLIP: As Trump tries to replicate the show of military might, the White House has greatly expanded their request from the Pentagon in the last few weeks, "The New York Times" reports.