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Quake damage inspected in California border town

CALEXICO, Calif. — Inspectors found a landscape of smashed windows and caved-in roofs in this struggling border city's historic downtown on Monday after the Easter earthquake in nearby Mexico.

The 7.2-magnitude temblor struck just south of the U.S. border near Mexicali, killing two, injuring at least 233, none seriously, and destroying dozens of businesses and homes. Another person was severely injured in the neighboring California town of El Centro.

In Calexico, the hardest-hit U.S. city, the quake damaged nearly 80 percent of its historic downtown area. It was the latest blow to a region struggling with the state's highest unemployment rate, said Hildy Carrillo, executive director of the Calexico Chamber of Commerce. "It will be months before downtown is back," she said. "It's a mess."

Philip Kim and his family spent much of the night picking up bottles of shampoo, lotion and beauty products at his Best Price beauty products store. The downtown area comprises primarily discount and 99-cent type stores. "It's a hard situation and sales were just picking up in March," Kim said.

He said 90 percent of his customers were from Mexicali and he was worried they wouldn't come back for a while from the bustling commercial center along Mexico's border with California.

Sal Farah, 62, spent the night in his 50-year-old downtown Yturralde Furniture store, fearing it could be looted since the giant storefront windows were knocked out by the quake.

"I didn't get much sleep, especially in the morning when it shook hard again," Farah said, standing in the store littered by broken vases, lamps and shattered knickknacks.

Scientists measured about 100 aftershocks early Monday, said seismologist Kate Hutton at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif.

Statistically, there will be one aftershock of about 6.0 and perhaps 10 of 5.0 or larger, she said.

The U.S. damage appeared to be limited to California's southeastern Imperial Valley in what was one of the strongest earthquakes to hit the region in decades. The shaking was felt hundreds of miles away in Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The quake had a shallow depth of 6 miles. But the human toll was minimal in large part because the energy from the quake moved northwest of Mexicali toward a less populated area, said Jessica Sigala, a geophysicist from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Fast facts

Alaska shaking too

The Alaska Volcano Observatory says a series of small earthquakes — not related to Sunday's quake in Mexico — began occurring early Monday near the summit of Mount Redoubt, about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage. Scientists do not know if the earthquakes will result in the volcano becoming explosive, but they say there is a heightened possibility. Last year, the volcano was very active for months, at times producing huge ash plumes and sending mud flows down its flanks.

Quake damage inspected in California border town 04/05/10 [Last modified: Monday, April 5, 2010 11:17pm]

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