Gov. George Deukmejian today declared a state of emergency in two Los Angeles suburbs hit hard by a powerful earthquake that killed at least three people, crumbled dozens of buildings and caused at least $40 million in damage.
No major looting was reported today in the area hit Thursday by the region's most powerful earthquake since 1971. Damage estimates by city officials included $10 million in Whittier, $5 million in Los Angeles and a combined $25 million for suburban Rosemead, Temple City and Pasadena.
Deukmejian arrived in the hardest-hit suburb of Whittier by late morning to tour the devastation.
"We're just seeing the property damage here," the governor said. "What really is so disturbing is to see the displacement of individuals, the elderly people who had to be moved out of rest homes and the like, and individual families, and of course the deaths that have occurred. It's tragic anytime anything like this occurs."
In addition to the three killed in the earthquake, at least four other people suffered fatal heart attacks in the moments during or after the temblor.
Dick Andrews, an official of the state Office of Emergency Services, told a press conference that at least 14 cities in the San Gabriel Valley sustained major damage.
Covered Areas Listed
The state of emergency was declared for Whittier and Monterey Park and the governor indicated that it would be extended to other suburbs and to Los Angeles.
More than 190,000 students were out of school today as structural engineers examined buildings at 196 schools in 15 districts, Andrews said.
The Los Angeles and Northridge campuses of the California State University were closed to allow detailed safety inspections, giving 52,000 college students the day off, CSU spokesman Jeff Stetson said.
Crews worked throughout the night to shore up a damaged overpass on the San Gabriel River Freeway near Santa Fe Springs and morning rush hour traffic flowed normally, said California Highway Patrol Officer Ernie Garcia.
"It could have been worse," said Mayor Tom Bradley. "Overall, I think we escaped a major catastrophe, and I'm sure we're grateful for that."
In an interview today on CBS, Bradley added: "It was a valuable exercise in terms of our preparation. . . . Within 15 minutes our emergency center was ready in every respect."
Thousands of Mexican and South Americans with memories of devastating earthquakes in their homelands refused to return to their homes and spent the night camped out at various city parks.
Police Estimate 3,000 Total
Police Lt. Dan Cooke said, "There were 3,000 of them in the Rampart Divison (west of downtown) alone." He said thousands more camped elsewhere in the city.
Cooke said the city broadcast over a Spanish language radio station, reassuring the immigrants that their homes were safe, but few heeded.
Damage from the quake was most severe in Whittier, just east of Los Angeles and the one-time home of former President Richard M. Nixon, who today sent a telegram to Mayor Gene H. Chandler.
"Mrs. Nixon and I were deeply distressed to hear the news report about the effects of yesterday's earthquake in our hometown. Please extend our best wishes to all those whose homes and businesses were damaged," Nixon said in the telegram.
Sen. Pete Wilson along with Mayor Chandler and City Manager Tom Mauk early today toured Whittier's devastated eight-block downtown area with its turn-of-the-century brick buildings.
In Whittier alone there were 30 businesses closed because of damage.