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Quake Losses Rise in Jarring 5.5 Aftershock : Damage Now Seen Passing $108 Million

October 05, 1987|TED ROHRLICH | Times Staff Writer

A large aftershock rolled through the Los Angeles Basin before dawn Sunday. It frightened already jittery residents of hard-hit areas of the San Gabriel Valley, sent scores of people to hospitals and shelters and further damaged buildings weakened by last Thursday's major earthquake.

No deaths were reported from the aftershock, however, and there were no major fires.

Disaster officials placed the episcenter of Sunday's earthquake in the city of San Gabriel, about nine miles east of downtown Los Angeles and two miles northwest of the epicenter of Thursday's temblor.

Sunday's shaker registered 5.5 on the Richter scale at Caltech's seismology lab. The U.S. Geological Survey's earthquake center in Golden, Colo., put it at 5.3. Often, distance and varying interpretations of preliminary readings lead to different assessments of quake strength by seismological stations.

The readings mean the aftershock emitted between 20 and 25 times less energy than Thursday's quake, which was measured at 6.1, officials said.

But to some badly shaken San Gabriel Valley residents, it seemed even worse. "The force was incredible," said Karen Shaw of Rosemead, who was staying with her family at a Red Cross shelter in nearby Alhambra along with about 50 others left homeless by Thursday's quake. "It was horrible. . . . Imagine (all these) people in a dark room and 'Kaboom,' the whole room is going, things are falling and people are scrambling and screaming and yelling and hysterical."

Heart Patient Dies

Several heart attacks were reported on the heels of the aftershock. At least one proved fatal.

Disaster officials, meanwhile, released an updated $108-million damage estimate from Thursday's quake and said that number is sure to rise when Sunday's damage is tabulated.

The most striking damage Sunday occurred in the city of San Gabriel, where a bell tower crashed into a garden and into a room off the 1,500-seat Civic Auditorium, causing at least $500,000 in damage, city administrator Bob Clute said.

Clute said other damage in the city was mainly to brick walls and windows weakened by Thursday's quake.

"Anything that was already weakened went," he said.

That appeared to be the story throughout Los Angeles County.

"It appears as though the aftershock . . . caused some facilities that were already damaged to be . . . damaged some more," said Ken Raske, assistant director of disaster services for the county. "It doesn't appear there is much fresh damage."

One new problem Sunday was apparent however: A number of water mains ruptured.

Also, rock slides closed some roads.

Limited Damage Area

The aftershock struck at 3:59 a.m. and was felt as far away as San Diego. But damage was concentrated in the already hard-hit communities of the San Gabriel Valley.

In Los Angeles, Police Detective Dennis Tilton said no reports of serious damage had reached his department.

In Whittier, however, police cordoned off a large part of the city's badly damaged 24-square block Uptown Village business district for the second time in less than a week.

Police had closed the district as a precaution after Thursday's quake. But late Friday they reopened it and many business owners had begun cleanups of their vulnerable old unreinforced brick and masonry structures.

Some had installed new windows only to have their work undone by Sunday's temblor, which littered streets once again with shattered glass, bricks and tiles.

"The frustration level is on a little higher level today," said Lane Langford, a bookstore owner and president of the Whittier Uptown Assn.

Many Structures Unsafe

Local authorities reopened the area to the public late Sunday but said that nearly half its buildings remain unsafe.

They said they do not know how many houses in Whittier are unsafe--only that they have received more than 1,000 requests from worried homeowners anxious for an inspection.

The Red Cross reported it was housing about 750 people at eight emergency shelters. Four are located in Los Angeles, one in Alhambra, one in Bell and two in Whittier, a spokeswoman said.

Some additional evacuations were reported.

In Alhambra, for instance, officials said 70 people were displaced from two apartment buildings and a hotel after inspectors concluded that the buildings had suffered serious structural damage.

In downtown Los Angeles' Skid Row area, the 100-room Lincoln Hotel at 549 Ceres St. was evacuated after building inspectors said the building was no longer inhabitable. The Red Cross was attempting to find shelter for more than 100 displaced tenants.

In El Monte, police said a number of people left their homes and set up tents.

Good Use for Tents

The same was true in Montebello, where a fire official said: "Those people that had tents pitched them."

Complete tallies of injuries were unavailable. But spot checks indicated that about 50 people were treated Sunday at Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital in Whittier, most of them for minor injuries, and 60 others at Beverly Hospital in Montebello.

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