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20 million people felt Mexicali earthquake; big aftershocks are 'likely,' Caltech says

April 4, 2010 |  5:57 pm

Instrumental Intensity ImageCaltech seismologists said Sunday's magnitude 7.2 Mexicali earthquake was the strongest to strike the region in nearly two decades and that an estimated 20 million people felt it across the Southwest U.S. and Mexico.

Caltech scientist Lucy Jones said an aftershock in the 6-magnitude range is "reasonably likely" in the next few days, and the chance of quake larger than 7.2 magnitude is fairly unlikely but still possible.

"The fault is pretty long, approximately 50 miles," Jones said. "We are seeing aftershocks heading northwest." Jones said the direction of the strike-slip fault runs northwest into California, about six miles beneath the earth's surface.

Information about quake damage in Mexico remains sketchy. According to Reuters, there have been reports of people trapped in elevators, collapsed retaining walls and power outages in and around Mexicali.  Telephone lines were down and items fell off of shelves and bookcases, according to reports.

Photos from Mexicali showed structural damage to some buildings and ruptured roads.

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/pager/events/ci/14607652/exposure.pngIn San Diego County, officials said no injuries have been reported so far.  But authorities are looking into reports of shattered glass and items falling off of shelves.

The Los Angeles Fire Department said their preliminary inspections of major infrastructure -- such as tall buildings, freeway bridges and stadiums -- found no problems.

"All fire stations completed their district drive-through assessment with no significant damage or injuries reported. LAFD had a slight increase in 911 call load mostly associated with automatic alarms and stuck elevators. Again no significant damage or injuries reported," the LAFD said in a statement.

San Diego County officials also said they found no significant damage. There were reports of people stuck in elevators. LAFD officials said they found broken elevators -- but no one stuck inside. Rides were temporarily closed at the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim.

The temblor struck at 3:40 p.m. about 108 miles east of Tijuana. In Los Angeles, the shaking lasted for several seconds.

Jeniffer Haynie, 59, of Hemet was sitting by the side of her bed reading the newspaper and got up when the ground began moving.

“When it first started it felt like I was on a roller coaster,” Hayne said in a phone interview. “It slowed down, then it picked up even faster for about a minute.”

As the ground shook, she said, she grabbed her Brussels griffon, Chewbacca, and told him to hang on. The quake lasted for about a minute, Hayne said. “That’s a long time for an earthquake,” she said.

This part of Baja California -- near Mexicali -- has experienced regular seismic activity -- mostly small quakes but also some strong ones. Guadalupe Victoria has recorded numerous minor quakes in the last few weeks.

Hundreds of people so far have reported it on the "Did You Feel It" reporting system at the U.S. Geological Survey.  Tell us if you felt it too.

-- Richard Winton in Pasadena, Ruben Vives, Alan Zarembo, Rong-Gong Lin II and Shelby Grad in Los Angeles and Tony Perry in San Diego

Map: Above: Shaking intensity maps. Below: Main quake an suspected aftershocks. USGS 

2-degree map