The largest recorded earthquake
ever felt in San Diego struck northern Baja California Sunday, spawning
numerous aftershocks, jolting Southern Californians, causing minor damage
around San Diego and at least one fatality south of the border.
The US Geological Survey reports
the epicentre of the 7.2 magnitude quake about 20 miles southeast of Mexicali,
an area that has been rocking with magnitude 3.0 quakes all week. Initial
reports had the quake rated at 6.9.
The heads of San Diego relief
agencies said it appeared damage in the heavily populated Baja California
capital was not as bad as might be expected. Word had not come in from more
vulnerable and isolated locations closer to the epicentre.
“What I’m hearing is that some
houses have been knocked down,” said Gary Becks of the Carlsbad-based Rescue
Task Force, who was monitoring news reports. The earthquake was felt the
hardest in Mexicali, a bustling commerce centre of 900,000 along the border.
Baja California state Civil
Protection Director Alfredo Escobedo said a man was killed when his home collapsed just outside of
Mexicali, and that there were reports of more people trapped in homes in the
area. Rescue teams with dogs and digging equipment were rushing to the city
from nearby Tijuana.
Escobedo also said a second man
died when he panicked as the ground shook, ran into the street and was struck
by a car.
At least 100 people were injured,
most of them struck by falling objects. Power was out in virtually the entire
city and the blackout was expected to last at least 14 hours, according to
The parking garage at Mexicali’s
city hall also collapsed, Escobedo said, but no one there was hurt.
There was substantial damage on the
other side of the border in Calexico, Calif. Fire Chief Peter Mercado told
KABC-TV of Los Angeles that there was structural damage and broken windows in
an older section of town, as well as leaking gas lines and damage to the water
system, but that no one was hurt.
In California, the Coronado Bridge
over San Diego Bay was briefly closed by the California Highway Patrol as a precaution.
There were reports of shattered windows, broken pipes and water main breaks in
private buildings, but no reports of injuries, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department
spokesman Maurice Luque said.
A California Highway Patrol
dispatcher said officers gave a once-over to area freeways, bridges and
overpasses, but found no damage. The situation was different in the Imperial
Valley, where CHP officers reported cracks and boulders on Interstate 8 and
damage to overpasses.
The San Diego Trolley system had
only a brief delay, and drivers travelled slower than usual to inspect rails as
they went, said Mike Malloy of the Metropolitan Transit System.
An emergency dispatcher said
firefighters responded to ringing alarms and elevator rescues, and several downtown
hotel guests hyperventilated. A 15-year-old boy in Chula Vista hurt his head
when he fell downstairs while trying to escape his house in the 2100 block of
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
briefly evacuated when there were reports of roof damage and ceiling tiles
fell. The terminal has reopened and the airport is operating as normal.
There were no initial damage
reports in the county area according to Lt. Scott Ybarrondo of the Sheriff’s
Department and Capt. Nick Schuler of Cal Fire. KNX radio reported that some
household items fell from shelves at a home on Coronado Island.
Excited San Diegans swarmed Facebook to share their experiences about the
Reports of strong shaking that
lasted nearly a minute came from areas as diverse as downtown San Diego,
Scripps Ranch and Pauma Valley. Some calls via cell phones did not connect,
though the reason was unclear.
A swarm of small temblors struck the epicentre area late Saturday and early Sunday.
Phone calls to El Centro, about 40 miles northwest of the epicentre, were met
with busy circuits. A police dispatcher in Yuma, Ariz. said the quake was very
strong there, but no damage was reported.
Nearly four hours
after the big earthquake, the USGS reported 49 aftershocks or related quakes
3.0 or greater. The largest was a magnitude 5.4