San Andreas fault 'ready to go'

Scene from San Andreas, the movie - a bit 'over the top'
Scene from San Andreas, the movie - a bit 'over the top'

Fresh off being destroyed by a monster quake in a Hollywood movie, San Andreas could be in for the real thing.

The San Andreas fault is "locked, loaded and ready to go" a leading seismologist has claimed at the National Earthquake Conference in Long Beach, California.

Thomas Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, said the fault is way overdue. The southern section hasn't moved significantly in more than 200 years.

"The springs on the San Andreas system have been wound very, very tight."

Based on the movement of the Pacific and North American plates, seismologists say it should be relieving about five metres of stress a century -- but that hasn't been happening.

The mid-section of the fault last jolted in 1857, a 7.9 shake that created a 300km-long rupture, reports the Los Angeles Times.

One small part of the section has been building up stress since the 1600s.

The last time the northern part caused a major quake was in 1906, killing 3000 people in San Francisco.

A computer simulation of an 8.0 quake suggested it would cause damage into the hundreds of billions of dollars, particularly in nearby Los Angeles -- which doesn't even sit on the faultline.

"You'll notice large shaking in the Los Angeles region persisting for long periods of time," says Mr Jordan.

It's cold comfort, but Mr Jordan says the events depicted in San Andreas the movie, starring Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, were "over the top".