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Earthquake damage in Mexicali; quake was triggered south of San Andreas fault

April 4, 2010 |  6:39 pm

This home in Mexicali collapsed from the force of Easter Sunday's 7.2 magnitude quake.Early reports from Mexico indicate that the border town of Mexicali was damaged in the estimated 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Baja California on Sunday that shook buildings as far north as Los Angeles.

Cesar Garcia, an editor at the Channel 12 TV station in Tijuana, said a two-story parking garage next to the Mexicali government headquarters collapsed, causing several injuries. No deaths had been reported. The government building was also damaged, he said.

The local general hospital was evacuated, with patients transferred to other facilities, according to Garcia.

He also said the news station had not been able to reach anyone in Guadalupe de Victoria, a town 16 miles northeast of the epicenter. Wineries are the main industry there, he said.

The New York Times reported that in Calexico, California, across the border from Mexicali, Carlton Hargrave, 64, was standing in the entryway of the Family Style Buffet restaurant when the quake hit. The restaurant, he said in a telephone interview, was "almost completely destroyed. We’ve got tables overturned, plates broken on the floor.”

“The ceilings caved in. It was big, I mean, it was major," he said in a shaky voice, as his feet moved over rubble and glass and plate fragments to produce a crunching sound.

There are 653,000 residents in Mexicali, according to 2005 census figures.

The earthquake hit at 3:40 p.m., about 40 miles southeast of Mexicali and 220 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Several major aftershocks have already hit the area, and triggered a 4.1 earthquake six miles southwest of Malibu in the Pacific Ocean.

It moved from the southeast toward the northwest, explaining why Southern California felt the quake strongly, according to seismologist Lucy Jones, who held a news conference at Caltech. 

The fault that triggered the quake was probably located on one of the many faults south of the San Andreas fault, Jones said. The fault is probably about 40 to 50 miles long, and probably shook for 20 to 30 seconds. The worst shaking would have occurred closest to the fault, said Jones.

She said scientists would not have enough information to identify the fault until geologists survey the area.

The quake occurred at the junction between two tectonic plates, the Pacific and the North American, that grind against each other through Baja California and California. The quake is probably on a strike-slip fault, which splices through the ground vertically and causes land to move horizontally.

The fault occurred at a location that has been seismically active for the past year, triggering many quakes in the 3-magnitude range, Jones said.

In Los Angeles, no significant damage or injuries were reported. The Los Angeles Fire Department said it saw a slight increase in 911 calls mostly associated with automatic alarms and stuck elevators.
At the Knott's Berry Farm theme park, rides were shut down for 20 minutes while they were inspected, said Willie Parker, a spokesman for the park.  No one was stranded on any of the rides, Parker said.

Jennifer Ramp, spokeswoman for San Diego Gas & Electricity, said two major power outages were reported in the San Clemente region and Borrego Springs, located far east of Escondido.

Outages were reported around 3:45 p.m.  About 3,854 customers in the communities of Dana Point, Capistrano Beach and Laguna Niguel were without power. In Borrego Springs, 603 customers lacked power.
Three hours later, all power was restored to those in Borrego Springs, but 2,349 customers in the San Clemente region were still without power.

There is a less than 5% chance that the 7.2 earthquake will trigger a larger earthquake within the next few days, according to Jones.

-- Richard Winton in Pasadena, Rong-Gong Lin II, Alan Zarembo and Ruben Vives in Los Angeles

Photo: Twitter Pic via KTLA News.