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Strong quake kills 2 in Mexico, rattles US states

Last Updated: Monday, April 5, 2010 - 12:54

Tijuana: A powerful earthquake swayed buildings from Los Angeles to Tijuana, killing two people in Mexico, blacking out cities, forcing the evacuation of hospitals and nursing homes, and prompting an Arizona border town to shut down its downtown area.

The 7.2-magnitude quake centred just south of the US border near Mexicali was one of the strongest earthquakes to hit region in decades.

"It sounds like it`s felt by at least 20 million people at this point," USGS seismologist Lucy Jones said. "Most of Southern California felt this earthquake."

Sunday afternoon`s earthquake was felt the hardest in Mexicali, a bustling commerce centre along Mexico`s border with California, where authorities said the quake was followed by at least 20 smaller aftershocks, including three of magnitudes 5.1, 4.5 and 4.3. The initial quake had a shallow depth of 10 kilometres (6 miles).

"It has not stopped trembling in Mexicali," said Baja California state Civil Protection director Alfredo Escobedo.

Escobedo said a man was killed when his home collapsed just outside of Mexicali. He said a second man died when he panicked as the ground shook, ran into the street and was struck by a car.

At least 100 people were injured, most of them struck by falling objects. Power was out in virtually the entire city and the blackout was expected to last at least 14 hours, Escobedo said.

All 300 patients had to be evacuated from the Mexicali General Hospital to private clinics because the building had no electricity or water. But the emergency generators powering the private clinics might not last long and authorities might have to move patients to hospitals outside the city, he said.

The parking garage at Mexicali`s city hall also collapsed, Escobedo said, but no one there was hurt.

There were growing reports of damage just across the border from Mexicali in Calexico, California, a city of about 27,000. The Calexico City Council met and declared a state of emergency. There were no reports of injuries.

Law enforcement vehicles guarded downtown streets in Calexico, where windows were shattered and bricks and plaster had fallen from some buildings.

Calexico police Lt Gonzalo Gerardo said most of the damage occurred in the city`s downtown where buildings that were constructed in the 1930s and `40s and not retrofitted for an earthquake of this magnitude.

Bureau Report

First Published: Monday, April 5, 2010 - 12:54

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