A magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck suburban Los Angeles on Friday evening, rattling a wide swath of Southern California.

Los Angeles -

A predawn earthquake rolled across the Los Angeles basin on Monday, rattling nerves and shaking buildings along a 240km swathe of Southern California but causing no major damage.

The 4.4-magnitude quake was centred 3.2km from Encino and 25km west-northwest of the downtown civic centre, according to the US Geological Survey.

USGS seismologist Robert Graves called it a “typical” Southern California quake and said expectations were that damage would be slight, if any occurred at all.

Los Angeles police and fire officials said there were no immediate reports of damage.

Encino resident Joann Smith described the initial jolt as a “big crash” that shook her house.

“My dog got out of bed, and she came looking for me,” Smith said. “She was shivering terribly.”

The 6.25am quake occurred at a depth of about 8km. There were several aftershocks, including one of 2.7 magnitude that caused very minor shaking, Graves said.

The quake was felt as far away as Orange County to the south and Santa Barbara to the north.

It was one of the largest to hit Los Angeles since the 6.7-magnitude Northridge quake killed several dozen people and caused $25-billion in damage two decades ago, USGS seismologist Lucy Jones told KABC-TV.

A magnitude-4.7 quake struck near Inglewood in 2009, she said.

Broadcasters live on the air immediately announced that an earthquake was occurring. Anchors at KTLA-TV took cover underneath their desk before quickly resuming the broadcast by seeking USGS information.

The quake was somewhat unusual because of its location within the Santa Monica Mountains, a 65km-long range that crosses Los Angeles and stretches west through Malibu to Ventura County.

The quake was, however, “par for the course in Southern California” and likely would be studied only briefly to understand how it fits in with previous activity, Hauksson said.

Southern California has been in a seismic lull since the significant quakes of the 1980s and 1990s. Whether Monday's quake signalled an end to that “earthquake drought” won't be known for many months because it takes a long period to show whether the rate of activity has changed, he said. - Sapa-AP