Quake rattles southwestern US

2010-04-05 07:21

Tijuana - A deadly magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck northwestern Mexico on Sunday, rocking buildings as far away as Arizona and southern California, as a string of aftershocks rattled the US and Mexican Pacific Coast.

Emergency workers struggled to respond to damage and injuries after the tremor knocked out power, damaged water lines and snarled traffic.

In the border city of Mexicali, located 60km from the tremor's epicenter, a man was killed when his home collapsed on top of him, Mexican rescue workers told AFP.

Another person was killed after running out from a home and being hit by a car in Mexicali, where 100 people were injured during the quake, Mexico's director of civil protection Alfredo Escobedo told CNN.

Roads cracked, telephone poles were toppled and sides were ripped off buildings in Mexicali, a city of 900 000 inhabitants that serves as the capital of Baja California state.

"This is a large quake with the potential of causing damage because it is not far from a population center," said Carlos Valdez, director of the National Seismological Service.

A firefighter at a station just outside Mexicali told the Los Angeles Times that fires caused by the quake destroyed at least six homes after damaging propane tanks and severing electricity lines.

Several homes near the Cerro Prieto volcano some 31km from the quake's epicenter sank into the group as water rose up around them, according to the firefighter, Oscar Silas.

US and Mexican seismological services said the quake, which struck at 15:40pm, was shallow with a depth of just 10km. They revised upward an initial report of a 6.9-magnitude tremor.

Not 'the big one'

Residents of California, Arizona and Nevada were breathing a collective sigh of relief that this was not "the big one," with no immediate reports of injuries and only limited damage.

Seismologists have warned a massive earthquake is inevitable in California and could kill thousands of people.

Among the dozens of reported aftershocks, at least three were strong ones, including a magnitude 5.4 tremor that struck near Guadalupe Victoria, southeast of Mexicali, the US Geological Survey said.

The Los Angeles Fire Department said its initial assessment found "no significant damage or injuries" but had responded to an increase in automatic alarms and stuck elevators.

The fire department was checking transportation infrastructure, large public venues, apartment buildings and power lines from the ground and the air to ensure safety.

Rides were temporarily closed at the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California, according to the Los Angeles Times.

KABC Television in Los Angeles said high-rise buildings in that city and in San Diego rocked back and forth when the quake hit and that some residents saw electric power poles moving.

The Yuma, Arizona sheriff's department was responding to numerous building alarms but had no immediate reports of injuries.

"A little bit of everything" fell down every aisle of Fry's grocery store, front-end manager Karla Favela told The Yuma Sun.

"The first thing I thought of - have you seen the movie 2012? The part when the grocery store splits in half?"

The USSG said the quake was felt as far away as Las Vegas, Nevada, some 460km from the epicenter as well as in Los Angeles, 360km away, and in Phoenix, Arizona, 300km away.

The earthquake came within weeks of two catastrophic quakes in the Americas.

A January 12 temblor of 7.0 magnitude in Haiti killed an estimated 230 000 people.

In Chile, a massive 8.8 quake on February 27 left an estimated 452 people dead.

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