New fears mega-earthquake could devastate Californian cities along the San Andreas fault line after scientists make ominous underground find

Researchers have been warning that swathes of Southern California are long overdue a massive magnitude seven-plus earthquake.

It's now feared the next major quake could happen at an extension of the fault, called the 'Durmid Ladder Structure', located above the Salton Sea south of Palm Springs.

It was discovered during an extensive geological study which examined the southern tip of the fault zone, which many believe will set off the next killer quake.

What is the San Andreas fault and what happened in 1906?

The San Andreas fault line is an 800-mile long tectonic boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate – two great fragments of the Earth’s crust.

The fault line extends about 10 miles into the Earth and is an intricate system of crushed and broken rock along the Californian coast.

According to the USGS, it extends from Northern California, through San Francisco and down and just north of Los Angeles.

The USGS said: “The San Andreas fault forms a continuous narrow break in the Earth's crust that extends from northern California southward to Cajon Pass near San Bernardino.

“Southeastward from Cajon Pass several branching faults, including the San Jacinto and Banning faults, share the movement of the crustal plates.

Large earthquakes along the San Andreas fault have occurred roughly every 150 years in the past 1,400 to 1,500 years.

The last major earthquake struck the fault in 1906 in the San Fransisco Bay Area when 3,000 people died and more than 80% of the city of San Francisco was destroyed.

Devastating fires soon broke out in the city and lasted for several days after the quake hit – which experts say could have measured 8.3 on the Richter Scale.

The death toll remains the greatest loss of life from a natural disaster in California's history and high in the lists of American disasters.

However, according to the United States Geological Survey there should be at least some warning before the next Big One strikes.

The USGS said: ““Such an earthquake may be preceded by an increase in seismicity for several years, possibly including several foreshocks of about magnitude 5 along the fault.

“Before the next large earthquake, seismologists also expect to record changes in the Earth's surface, such as a shortening of survey lines across the fault, changes in elevation, and effects on strainmeters in wells.”

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