MEXICALI, Mexico (AP) - Aftershocks rattled the southwest
Mexico-U.S. border on Monday morning in the aftermath of a major
earthquake that killed two people, blacked out cities and forced
the evacuation of hospitals and nursing homes.
Sunday's 7.2-magnitude quake, centered just south of the U.S.
border near Mexicali, was one of the strongest earthquakes to hit
region in decades, shaking at least 20 million people. It had a
shallow depth of 6 miles (10 kilometers).
The human toll was minimal in large part because the energy from
the quake moved northwest of Mexicali toward a less populated area,
said Jessica Sigala, a geophysicist from the U.S. Geological
"We were just kind of lucky that the energy went the other
way," Sigala said. "With every earthquake, the earth starts
moving a certain direction. It started south of Mexicali and the
rupture moved northwest."
Sunday afternoon's earthquake hit hardest in Mexicali, a
bustling commerce center along Mexico's border with California,
where one man was killed when his home collapsed just outside town
and another died when he into the street in panic and was struck by
Across the border in Calexico, police patrolled streets littered
with shattered glass Monday, and a downtown area containing was
closed because of damage.
Scientists measured about 100 aftershocks early Monday morning,
said seismologist Kate Hutton at the California Institute of
Technology in Pasadena.
They caused no new damages in Mexicali, said Alan Sandoval, a
civil protection inspector.
At least 100 people were injured in Mexicali, most of them
struck by falling objects. Power was out in virtually the entire
city and the blackout was expected to last well into Monday,
All 300 patients were evacuated from the Mexicali General
Hospital because of the structural damage to the building, which
also was without electricity and water. Some patients were taken to
private clinics but others were in tents.
It was unclear how long the emergency generators powering the
private clinics could last. Sandoval said the most critical
patients would be transported to hospitals in Tijuana and the
coastal town of Ensenada.
Sandoval said the Easter holiday delayed damage assessments for
Mexicali, as did landslides that slowed traffic on the toll road
into the city.
The parking garage at Mexicali's city hall collapsed but no one
Scientists said the main earthquake probably occurred on a fault
that has not produced a major temblor in over a century.
Preliminary data suggest the quake occurred on the Laguna Salada
fault, which last unleashed a similar-sized quake in 1892. Since
then, it has sparked some magnitude-5 temblors.
U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Erik Pounders described the
area as a "chaotic" system of faults that needed more research.
In Calexico, California, a city of 27,000 right across the
border from Mexicali, the city council declared a state of
Calexico police Lt. Gonzalo Gerardo said most of the damage
occurred downtown, where buildings constructed in the 1930s and
'40s were not retrofitted for an earthquake of this magnitude.
"You've got a lot of cracks. You've got a lot of broken
glass," he said. "It's unsafe for people to go there."
Rosendo Garcia, 44, was driving his daughter home from work when
the quake struck.
"It felt like I was in a canoe in the middle of the ocean," he
said, adding that homes in his trailer park were seriously damaged,
including one knocked off its foundation.
A home for seniors in Calexico built in the early 1900s was
evacuated and its residents moved to a Red Cross shelter. The Fire
Department also brought some sick and elderly people to hospitals
because of power outages and gas problems.
Strong shaking was reported across much of Southern California.
The earthquake rattled buildings on the west side of Los Angeles
and in the San Fernando Valley, interrupting Easter dinners. Some
stalled elevators were reported and water sloshed out of swimming
Susan Warmbier was putting away groceries in the San Diego
suburb of Chula Vista when her husband asked, "Is the house
"We turned and we looked at the house, and it was actually
moving. You could see it slightly moving left to right," she said.
Elsewhere in San Diego, 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. Coronado Bridge over San Diego Bay was briefly
closed as a precaution.
In Tijuana, the quake caused buildings to sway and knocked out
power in some areas. Mexican families celebrating Easter ran out of
their homes with children screaming and crying.
"I grabbed my children and said, 'Let's go outside, hurry,
hurry!"' said Elizabeth Alvarez, 54.
No tsunami warning was issued, but hundreds of people on
Tijuana's crowded beach feared the worst and fled when they felt
the ground shake, said Capt. Juan Manuel Hernandez, the fire
department's chief of aquatic rescue. The beach filled up again
If the preliminary magnitude holds it would be the area's
largest temblor since the 7.3-magnitude Landers quake hit in 1992,
Jones said. There were at least two other 7.2-magnitude quakes in
the last 20 years.
The main quake was even felt hundreds of miles away in Phoenix,
a rarity for residents there. Jacqueline Land said the king-sized
bed in her second-floor apartment felt like a boat gently swaying
on the ocean.
"I thought to myself, 'That can't be an earthquake. I'm in
Arizona,"' the Northern California native said.
The quake was felt as far away as Las Vegas, where there were no
reports of damage or injuries.
Most of the 3,000 customers who lost power in southwestern
Arizona and the more than 5,000 who went dark in Southern
California regained power within minutes, utility officials said.