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'We Came Through the Darn Thing Pretty Good!' : Damage Is Minor in County; Crews Sent to Aid L.A.

October 02, 1987|JEFFREY A. PERLMAN and CARLA RIVERA | Times Staff Writer

One woman died of a heart attack. Dozens of people were hurt. Scores of chimneys toppled, foundations cracked and windows shattered. But for the most part, Orange County residents weathered the severe earthquake that rocked the region Thursday.

Orange County emergency service and utility officials Thursday were sending crews to aid people in Los Angeles County, where the earthquake, measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale, caused considerable damage. It was the strongest earthquake in the Los Angeles metropolitan area in 16 years.

The Santa Ana and Orange County fire departments sent several engine companies north, as did Costa Mesa and Newport Beach. And Southern California Gas Co. employees were preparing to move into parts of Los Angeles County to repair leaks and reconnect natural gas turned off by frightened residents.

In Orange County, a Brea kidney dialysis center was evacuated after the 7:42 a.m. temblor caused ceiling tiles and insulation to fall.

A statue-replica of Michelangelo's "David," carved from marble from the same quarry as the 16th-Century original, tumbled and broke at Forest Lawn in Cypress.

A fire sprinkler system flooded a Los Alamitos boutique. Utility poles leaned dangerously at Pine Street and Katella Avenue.

But mostly there were inconveniences: some Amtrak trains were more than two hours late; traffic signals in North Orange County were out for a while; 29,000 county residents were temporarily without power; and children were drilled at school about earthquake safety in place of regular lessons.

"It looks like we came through the darn thing pretty good," Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Richard J. Olson said. "We had books coming off the shelves, pictures off the walls and ceiling tiles fell, but that's about it. . . . It appears that we're (Orange County) better off than L.A."

Injuries were mostly minor, but in Irvine a 69-year-old woman with a history of heart trouble collapsed and died while talking on the telephone with her husband about the quake, police said.

Mardella Finch Smith "was apparently emotionally distraught due to the earthquake and aftershocks," said Lt. Sam Allevato of the Irvine Police Department.

James Hewitt Smith, chairman and publisher of Orange County Businessweek, called his wife from his office about 9 Thursday morning in an effort to calm her, Allevato said. "Basically, she went off the line; the phone just dropped."

The Orange County Coroner ruled she died of "heart-related ailment" but could not directly connect her death to the earthquake.

The coroner's office reported no fatalities due directly to accidents or damage from the tremor, but hospitals reported dozens of injuries, ranging from exposure to toxic chemicals spilled at a pet store to broken bones suffered in falls.

Edna Enyart, 87, of Whittier was one of 11 people treated or admitted at La Habra Community Hospital. Suffering from a fractured pelvis, she said she was in her bed when the quake began.

"I tried to get out (of the house)," she said. "Once I got out, it was still shaking. I could see and feel the sidewalk buckle. It felt like something lifted me up on back and threw me sprawling. . . . I've lived here all my life, and I've been through several earthquakes, but I've never been hurt before."

Remaining hospitalized with Enyart were Peter Morgan, residence not available, who was suffering from chlorine inhalation, and Paul Daniel, 37, of Whittier, who was being treated for a back injury.

Three of the injured were treated for exposure to chemicals spilled at the Petco Animal Supply store on Whittier Boulevard in La Habra.

At Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and Medical Center, spokeswoman Sheila Holliday said:

"We've had a few minor injuries. A 13-year-old Huntington Beach girl who broke her arm when she fell of her bike was the most serious."

Hospitals in Anaheim and other Orange County cities reported treating and releasing patients with minor cuts, mostly from shattered glass.

Several hospitals sustained minor damage themselves, including Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, St. Jude Hospital in Yorba Linda, and Brea Community Hospital, where officials reported a large crack along the width of the building.

Brea Hospital spokesman Bud Yoakam said three to four inches of plaster had come down from one wall, and there was two-foot-long crack where a floor buckled next to the pharmacy.

At Childrens Hospital of Orange County, spokeswoman Maureen Williams said: "The younger kids really didn't show much reaction. But their parents were extremely frightened. The building did sway quite a bit. . . . The older kids--there were a couple who got somewhat hysterical, and they (hospital staff) brought up someone from our psychology department."

Some of Thursday's inconveniences involved utility services, although officials said problems were relatively minor here, in contrast with the situation in Los Angeles.

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