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A strong earthquake rumbled through southern California Wednesday night, damaging dozens of buildings, bouncing cars on busy Los Angeles freeways, and injuring at least a dozen people.

The earthquake caused minor damage over a widespread area and was felt as far away as Las Vegas, Nev., about 200 miles to the northeast. It registered 6.1 on the Richter scale, the California Institute of Technology reported.

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Seismologists warned there was a 10 to 25 percent chance it could be followed within three days by a potentially devastating 7.5 earthquake - more powerful than the 6.9 quake that killed 270 people in the San Francisco area in 1989.

Lucy Jones, a US Geological Survey seismologist at Caltech, said the quake was classified as a "Level B" hazard, the second highest on the scale. Ms. Jones said the tremors were not on the San Andreas Fault, the source of California's most devastating quakes of the past, but on an unnamed north-to-south fault in the mountains near Desert Hot Springs, about 110 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

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