A Kiwi family stranded 70 floors up in an LA skyscraper when today's massive 7.1 magnitude quake struck have described distraught people hugging and sobbing as the building "violently" swayed.

The quake hit Los Angeles at 8.19pm local time (3.19pm NZT) and was the largest Southern California temblor in at least 20 years. No deaths have been reported but several injuries, and massive damage to infrastructure in and around Ridgecrest have been reported.

Kiwi expats the Fair family had just ordered dinner in a 70th floor bar just after 8pm in downtown LA's newly built InterContinental hotel when a steady shaking "started to build".

"We just ordered a drink from the bar and I was sitting up against the window," Andrew Fair told the Herald.


"Then the building started swaying, and continued. Everyone slowly started to move away from the windows. And it's a newer building so it's designed to move.

"There were blinds on the windows that were banging. It felt quite violent and quite noisy. There were people who were sobbing. There was a family that was hugging each other.

"The violence we were experiencing was all around. You just feel hopeless because you're that far up. It's not like someone's threatening you, it's mother nature."

The quake — preceded by Thursday's 6.4-magnitude temblor in the Mojave Desert — was followed by a series of large and small aftershocks.

It hit at 8.19pm and was centred 17km from Ridgecrest in the same areas where the previous quake hit. But it was felt as far north as Sacramento, as far east as Las Vegas and as far south as Mexico.

Early magnitude estimates from the US Geological Survey wavered between 6.9 and 7.1. Cracked buildings, fires, broken roads and numerous injuries have been reported across LA.

Fair said his two boys, Jack, 10, and Harrison, 8, were "freaking out" as the shocks lasted for around a minute.

The Fairs, who have lived at Venice Beach in LA for eight years, quickly made the decision to leave the building as soon as it stopped swaying.


"Once it stopped they were making an announcement over the loudspeaker saying nobody go anywhere, the elevators aren't working."

The Fair family.
The Fair family.
The view from the 70th floor of the InterContinental downtown LA hotel.
The view from the 70th floor of the InterContinental downtown LA hotel.

But Fair said they were living in New York when the 9/11 attacks happened and decided they were getting off the 70th floor regardless.

"They were trying to stop people [leaving the hotel]. But we lived in New York when 9/11 happened so we were like, we're out of here," the 44-year-old said.

"So we just went down the service elevator. They've got four different elevator bays that service different aspects of the building so we went down about five flights of steps and then we went down the service elevator and got out of there."

Kristina Fair, 44, said the family's experience was probably more dramatic than many felt on the ground in LA.

"We probably felt the worst of it because of the height we were at," she said.

"We live in LA, so we got in an Uber and headed back to Venice Beach where we live.

"For the long weekend we decided to go for a little staycation - so we were staying at the InterContinental for the weekend."

The area in and around Ridgecrest, already trying to recover from the previous temblor, took the brunt of damage.

There is about a 1-in-10 chance that another 7.0 quake could hit within the next week, said Lucy Jones, a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology and a former science adviser at the U.S. Geological Survey.The chance of a 5.0-magnitude quake "is approaching certainty," she added.

In downtown Los Angeles, 240km away, offices in skyscrapers rolled and rocked for at least 30 seconds.