Sunday, April 4, 2010
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SAN DIEGO A powerful earthquake swayed high-rises in San Diego County and was felt across Southern California and Arizona on Sunday afternoon. The magnitude 7.2 quake was centered near Guadalupe Victoria in Baja California. The USGS reports it’s the largest earthquake to shake the region in 18 years.
The earthquake was felt the hardest in Mexicali, a bustling commerce center along the border. State authorities said at least two people died and 100 were injured from the quake. Several structures collapsed or were damaged, including a parking garage under construction at the Baja California Capitol building. Power was out in virtually the entire city and the blackout was expected to last at least 14 hours.
Fires burned throughout Mexicali due to gas line breaks and damaged propane tanks, said Allen Sandoval, inspector for Baja California Civil Protection. Rescue teams with dogs and digging equipment were rushing to the city from nearby Tijuana, but a landslide along that highway was slowing traffic.
Baja California water authorities say the aqueduct that carries Colorado River water to Tecate and Tijuana may have suffered structural damage. State authorities are warning Tecate residents that their water may be discolorered because the state has to switch to an alternate water source. State officials say the water still meets health standards.
Lupita Alquicera, 45, of Mexicali was shopping at the time of the quake and said people went running when the building started shaking. On her way home, she said she saw hundreds of people standing outside of the public hospital, and she heard sirens and saw smoke rising in several places around the city.
Alquicera said dozens of people in her neighborhood had abandoned their homes for the street for fear of another strong aftershock or quake, and dozens more had set up camp for the night in the soccer field. She said power and water were still out at 7:30 p.m., and that getting any information was difficult because they couldn't turn on the television or radio or access the internet. As of 7:30 p.m. Sunday, she said the sirens had died down and the smoke she had seen earlier had stopped.
There were growing reports of damage just across the border from Mexicali in Calexico. The Calexico City Council met and declared a state of emergency, though there were no reports of injuries in the region.
Law enforcement vehicles guarded downtown streets in Calexico, where windows were shattered and bricks and plaster had fallen from some buildings.The downtown Calexico port of entry also suffered damage and was closed as a precautionary measure shortly after the quake struck. Vehicle traffic was diverted to the east port.
In San Diego, the Sheraton Harbor Island towers were evacuated due to structural worries, but an inspection by building engineers determined there were no major problems, said Maurice Luque of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. However, floors 7-12 remained closed because of jammed doors, Luque said.
Lindbergh Field's Terminal 2 was evacuated for a short time but flights were not delayed.
Isolated power outages were reported throughout Southern California, including more than 600 customers in Borrego Springs, according to Jennifer Ramp of San Diego Gas & Electric.
The San Diego trolley had delays of 15 minutes after the quake hit, and trains traveled slowly because of speed restrictions so the drivers could inspect the tracks ahead of them, said Mike Malloy of the Metropolitan Transit System.
There have been three large aftershocks so far, including one that registered a 5.5 magnitude, and other smaller temblors, USGS said.