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Magnitude 7.2 quake blamed in Baja deaths

Mexicali is hit hardest; minor damage in San Diego

Originally published April 4, 2010 at 3:50 p.m., updated April 5, 2010 at 9:30 a.m.

Men stand next to cracks on a street in Mexicali, Mexico, early Monday, April 5, 2010 after Sunday's powerful earthquake. According to the USGS,  the earthquake's epicenter was 26 km (16 miles) south west from Guadalupe Victoria, Baja California, Mexico. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)

/ AP

Men stand next to cracks on a street in Mexicali, Mexico, early Monday, April 5, 2010 after Sunday's powerful earthquake. According to the USGS, the earthquake's epicenter was 26 km (16 miles) south west from Guadalupe Victoria, Baja California, Mexico. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)

Men stand next to cracks on a street in Mexicali, Mexico, early Monday, April 5, 2010 after Sunday's powerful earthquake. According to the USGS,  the earthquake's epicenter was 26 km (16 miles) south west from Guadalupe Victoria, Baja California, Mexico. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)
gallery photo

Baja Earthquake

The temblor, which struck about 3:40 p.m. April 4, 2010, was centered 16 miles southwest of Guadalupe Victoria in Baja, Mexico, and about 104 miles east southeast of Tijuana, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Its depth was reported at 6.2 miles.

YOUR EARTHQUAKE REPORTS

Where were you when you felt the earthquake or any of its aftershocks? Tell us. Then, read what others have said. (View a larger version of this map.)

24-hour quake map

Earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater from from the past 24 hours as recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey.

PREPARING FOR QUAKES

  • Repair defective electrical wiring, leaky gas lines and inflexible utility connections.
  • Bolt down and secure to the wall studs your water heater, refrigerator, furnace and gas appliances. If recommended by your gas company, have an automatic gas shut-off valve installed that is triggered by strong vibrations.
  • Place large or heavy objects and breakables on lower shelves. Fasten shelves, mirrors, and large picture frames to walls. Brace high and top-heavy objects.
  • Anchor overhead lighting fixtures.
  • Be sure the residence is firmly anchored to its foundation.
  • Make a quake kit with food, water, medical supplies, blankets and a portable radio. Store it outside the house.
  • Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall.
  • Hold earthquake drills with your family members: Drop, cover and hold on.

Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency

SEISMIC FACTS

A magnitude 7.2 earthquake rumbled through most of Southern California and Baja California this afternoon, followed by a series of aftershocks, according to early reports from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The biggest temblor hit at 3:40 p.m., its epicenter estimated to be 108 miles east-southeast of Tijuana in Mexico. The rupture occurred 6.2 miles deep.

It was preceded by a magnitude 3.3 quake that occurred at 3:34 p.m., the epicenter in the same area but at a considerably shallower depth of less than one mile.

At least eight aftershocks have followed:

• At 3:44 p.m., a magnitude-2.3 quake occurred 100 miles east of Tijuana. The estimated depth was 19 miles.

• At 4:09 p.m., a magnitude-4.5 quake occurred 62 miles east of Tijuana. Estimated depth: Slightly more than one mile.

• At 4:15 p.m., a magnitude-5.1 quake hit 86 miles east-southeast of Tijuana. Estimated depth: 10.5 miles.

• At 4:19 p.m., a magnitude-3.8 quake struck 43 miles east-northeast of Tijuana. Estimated depth; Less than one mile.

• At 4:22 p.m., a magnitude-3.6 quake rumbled 45 miles northeast of San Diego and just 10 miles southwest of Borrego Springs. Estimated depth: 4.3 miles.

• At 4:34 p.m., a magnitude-4.7 quake hit 85 miles east of Tijuana. Estimated depth: Less than one mile.

• At 4:46 p.m., a magnitude-3.5 quake struck 72 miles east of Tijuana, 16 miles west-southwest of El Centro in Imperial County. Estimated depth: 2.2 miles.

• At 4:48 p.m., a magnitude-3.4 quake occurred 98 miles east of Tijuana, 9 miles east-southeast of Brawley in Imperial County. Estimated depth: 13.4 miles.

San Diego County was little more than rattled Sunday, but one of the strongest earthquakes to strike the region in decades left at least two dead, 100 injured and others trapped inside their homes in Mexico.

The 7.2 temblor also cracked the main aqueduct that carries Colorado River water from Mexicali to Tijuana, leaving Tijuana residents severely limited in their water use.

The quake hit 104 miles east-southeast of Tijuana and 6.2 miles underground at 3:40 p.m.

Alan Sandoval, of the Baja California Civil Protection Office in Tijuana, confirmed Sunday night that two people were dead in Mexicali, including one man whose house collapsed on him.

Rescue teams with dogs and digging equipment were rushing to Mexicali from nearby Tijuana, but a landslide along that highway was slowing traffic.

Late Sunday night families still without power gathered in the streets in the Mexicali Valley, where close to a million people live.

The biggest hospital in Mexicali planned to move all its patients to other facilities because of structural damage.

By contrast, the quake’s impact in San Diego was fleeting, disrupting the Easter Sundays of many while they assessed the damage.

Suzanne Ziring, a waitress eight months removed from an earthquake-free existence in Philadelphia, had just entered an elevator on the 12th floor after serving Easter brunch downtown at Bertrand at Mister A’s.

She assumed from the bouncing that the cables had snapped.

“I thought I was dying,” she said. “I didn’t realize it was an earthquake.”

Over at the Sheraton Hotel and Marina on Harbor Drive, Amy Present, visiting from Plymouth, Wis., was on the 10th floor when “everything started shaking. The carpet and drywall began shifting.”

She’d made it all the way down to the third floor before the building stopped moving. Cracks were later discovered in the floors, but the building was deemed safe to re-enter, said San Diego fire department spokesman Maurice Luque.

Authorities were dispatched all over the county as nervous residents called in with concerns. It was a familiar scene for many San Diegans. Pets cowered. Pictures fell. Mothers fled homes with babies in tow. Even the hippos at the zoo stood up fast and headed for water.

Fire department personnel checked out an apartment building on Kansas Street in North Park, where cracks were found. They determined that the building was safe, but recommended a structural engineer examine it, Luque said.

A water line broke at the Nordstrom store at the Fashion Valley shopping center, flooding the store. Several windows shattered at the Sports Arena.

The San Diego International Airport had a minor water leak at Gate 33 in Terminal 2, which was briefly evacuated while workers checked for any gas leaks.

SeaWorld shut down its rides to check for damage. None was found, and the rides were running again within 50 minutes, said spokesman Dave Koontz.

The earthquake caused two outages for San Diego Gas & Electric, spokeswoman Jennifer Ramp said. About 600 customers lost power for two hours in Borrego Springs, and more than 3,800 people ended up without electricity in Orange County’s Dana Point-Laguna Niguel area.

Karissa Pearce, front desk supervisor at the Hilton San Diego/Harbor Island, said water splashed out of the hotel pool when the earthquake hit.

“It was like 20 people did a cannonball,” she said.

In the last two decades, only one earthquake has been stronger in California— a 7.3 quake that hit Landers and left three dead in 1992 — and there were at least two other 7.2-magnitude quakes in the last 20 years.

Several aftershocks were reported including one that measured 5.1 close to the epicenter of the larger quake.

The Associated Press, staff writers Sandra Dibble, Anne Krueger, Jeanette Steele, J. Harry Jones and contributing writer Omar Millan contributed to this report.

Matthew Hall:(619) 542-4599; matthew.hall@uniontrib.com; Debbi Baker: (619) 293-1710; debbi.baker@uniontrib.com

VOICES

“It was a very hard jolt, strong enough to knock you down. People in the street at that moment began to hold each other.”

Sergio Haro, Mexicali

“The whole house started shaking. You couldn’t get balance. I started falling through the open door. I landed on my left arm and then my knees.”

Jerry Esqueda, El Centro

“Everything that could fall over seems to have fallen and broken.”

Vicky Esqueda, El Centro

“It scared the crap out of me. This is an old building and things were shaking a lot.”

Lynn Bowen, Borrego Springs

“It was just shaking like crazy.”

Steve Dolan, Alpine

“At first, I thought, oh that must be a strong earthquake far away. Then, it continued to build, and I thought, oh, that’s a strong earthquake here! I got up to stand in the door frame, but then it died down. I went outside to look along with other people in my apartment block. There were a bunch of people across the street who seemed to have left the restaurant there.”

Jason Packman, La Jolla

“On the fourth floor of a five-story apartment complex when the quake hit. Stood underneath a door frame, which is completely useless with 50 tons of concrete above us. Took us five minutes to get out of the complex thanks to not having disaster preparedness plans.”

Phelan Riessen, Little Italy

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