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Northbound U.S.-Mexico border in Calexico reopened after earthquake

April 6, 2010 | 11:17 am

In the farming village of Ejido Cucapah, a man digs his car out of a sinkhole. During the shaking from the April 4, 2010 earthquake, residents reported that sinkholes formed, and water erupted in hundreds of places, carrying water and mud into most houses and streets. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

The U.S.-Mexico border was opened Tuesday to northbound vehicle traffic in Calexico, but the historic downtown district remained closed as inspectors checked for structural damage to buildings in the wake of the  magnitude 7.2 Easter Sunday earthquake in Mexicali, Mexico.

Although the border crossing had been closed to northbound traffic as officials checked for damage to the federal building where agents examine vehicles, pedestrians continued to cross through the checkpoint from Mexicali in an effort to flee the aftershocks wracking northern Baja California.

Many were headed to the Greyhound bus station, and taxis swarmed the area in the hopes of picking up passengers bound for points north and west.

Mexicali resident Hilda Gonzales waited at the Calexico bus station with her three children.

"I won't feel safe until I can get to my sister's house in Los Angeles." Gonzales said. "Then I will feel safe. Maybe I will never come back to Mexicali."

The Salvation Army set up a storefront at the border in Calexico and handed out cookies, water and coffee to entering visitors.

"It’s comfort food," said one of the Salvation Army workers, Laura Cintora.

Although the U.S. Border Patrol resumed its regular routine, the Calexico Police Department remained on extra deployment downtown as yellow police tape kept people away from red-tagged buildings. Yet there were no signs of looting or problems associated with the refugees from Mexicali, Lt. J.J. Serrano said.

"Everyone seems to be on their best manners," he said. "They know everybody is stressed out by this.”

Looking around at the quiet, abandoned buildings, he said: "It looks like a movie set, doesn't it? Maybe they'll do a movie about Calexico."

There have been more than 500 aftershocks from Sunday's 7.2 Mexicali earthquake, and experts said residents in the region can expect many more. “People who live near [the epicenter] are getting no sleep,” said Kate Hutton, a Caltech seismologist.

Most of the aftershocks have been minor -- in the 3 magnitude or less. But there have been six aftershocks that registered more than 5.0, and dozens in the 4 range, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

There was a 4.6 temblor on the border early Tuesday morning. But the last magnitude 5 quake occurred Monday morning. Hutton said there’s about a 56% chance that another magnitude 5 aftershock will occur sometime Tuesday.

She said that over the next week, there might be as many as 22 magnitude 4 aftershocks and maybe two magnitude 5 aftershocks. “The good news is that the aftershocks do become less frequent with time,” Hutton said. “After a week or two, it will only be an occasional jolt.”

The aftershocks are being felt most acutely in Mexicali, El Centro, Calexico and other border towns hit hardest by the temblor.

The death toll from the quake remained at two; more than 230 people were injured. The quake, centered about 30 miles south of the border, caused 45 buildings in Baja California to collapse or partly collapse, authorities said.

-- Tony Perry in Calexico, Calif., and Ching-Ching Ni in Pasadena

Photo: In the farming village of Ejido Cucapah, a man digs his car out of a sinkhole. During the shaking from the April 4, 2010 earthquake, residents reported that sinkholes formed, and water erupted in hundreds of places, carrying water and mud into most houses and streets. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

RELATED:

PHOTOS: Baja California earthquake

Earthquake leaves elevator service shaky across Southern California

Map: Epicenter and aftershocks

Graphic: Earthquake kits Graphic: Earthquake kits

Graphic: Seismic activity

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