[Updated at 9 p.m.] Two people are reported to have been killed in a 7.2 earthquake that struck about 40 miles from the international border in northeastern Baja California Norte Sunday afternoon. The temblor resonated strongly throughout Southern California and was likely felt by 20 million people.
Alfredo Escobedo Ortiz, director of Baja California State Civil Protection, says a second person has died in or near Mexicali as a result of the quake, according to Mexican news service Agencia Fronteriza de Noticias. Details were sketchy.
LA Weekly sources monitoring Mexican radio relayed the first report of a death related to the quake: One man in Mexicali was killed when a home collapsed. Several injuries in that area of 1.2 million people were also reported. The free road between Mexicali and Tijuana was closed as a result of damage; the same goes for the free road between Tijuana and Ensendada, which reportedly sustained damage near the town of La Mision. It is believed that the Gulf of California tourist and fishing town of San Felipe was rocked by the quake as well.
The Agencia Froteriza also reported a dozen structure fires broke out in the Mexicali area, likely as a result of ruptured gas tanks and lines, and that there have been unconfirmed reports of people trapped in rubble. Part of he Mexicali Civic Center parking lot appears to have collapsed as well.
The owner of Family Style Buffet in the desert town of Calexico, across the border from Mexicali, told the New York Times that the restaurant was “almost completely destroyed.”
“It was big,” proprietor Carlton Hargrave told the paper. “I mean, it was major.”
The shaker hit at 3:40 p.m. 16 miles from the town of Guadalupe Victoria, about 37 miles south of Mexicali and 104 miles east southeast of Tijuana, according to the United States Geological Survey. The temblor struck at a depth of about six miles, according to the Survey.
To give the size of the quake some context, the devastating shaker in Haiti last January measured 7.0. Caltech seismologist Lucy Jones told ABC7 the Baja quake, originally believed to be a 6.9, was more likely a “preliminary moment magnitude” 7.2. However, Sunday's shaker was centered in a lightly populated desert, perhaps explaining why comparatively few injuries had been reported.
A caller to ABC7 said family in the Mexicali Valley reported severe damage to their home and to a nearby manufacturing plant that was completely destroyed. Broken windows, busted pipes and cracked water mains were reported in San Diego, according to Associated Press. The famous Coronado Bay Bridge above San Diego Bay was closed by the California Highway Patrol as a precaution, the AP stated.
In Los Angeles, a woman reported she was stuck in an elevator at the 34th floor of a high-rise at 10250 W. Constellation Blvd. in Century City, according to L.A. city fire officials.
The lights went out and remained out late Sunday afternoon for residents of Rancho Palos Verdes, according to Southern California Edison. Additionally, about 5,380 SCE customers in Huntington Beach, Montebello, Compton and neighboring cities experienced “flickering lights” following the shaker. CBS2 also reported that power outages were affecting Tijuana late Sunday afternoon. San Diego Gas & Electric customers as far north as Dana Point in Orange County lost power as a result of the quake, according to the utility.
ABC7 also states that Disneyland in Anaheim shut down its rides as a precaution and that at least one person ended up stuck in an elevator at the theme park's eponymous hotel.
On Twitter Sunday afternoon Mexicali, San Diego and Guadalupe Victoria were top-10 trending topics, with many Southern Californians weighing in on what they felt. Some residents reported that the earthquake lasted for more than 40 seconds. A commenter on this post reported feeling the quake in Tucson. The Orange County Register cited a man who said he felt the temblor in a Las Vegas high-rise. KPCC (89.3 FM) quotes a man who felt the temblor in Phoenix.
The epicenter was the source of a swarm of quakes on Saturday and in recent weeks, according to the USGS. The shaker took place in a volcanic “caldera” that erupted 10,000 years ago. The biggest of five quakes that struck Saturday was a 4.3 shortly after 4 p.m., according to the USGS. Calthech's Jones told reporters Sunday's 7.2 likely hit along the Laguna Solada fault. She said it was the biggest quake in the region since 1992's Landers quake, which measured 7.3 or 7.4 on the Richter Scale.
A 4.1 “triggered quake” related to the Baja temblor struck the Santa Monica Bay five miles south of Malibu at 4:10 p.m., according to Caltech.
Los Angeles city fire authorities undertook a survey of the city by helicopter after the quake and report no damage was visible. As a precaution, the Los Angeles Fire Department went into “earthquake mode” shortly after the quake hit but called off the status at 4:42 p.m. No damage or injuries were reported.
Baja's aftershocks included a 5.1 at 4:15 p.m.
-With reporting from City News Service.