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State Seeks Federal Aid for Earthquake Victims : Deukmejian Asks Relief for 12,000 Homeless and Owners of 10,600 Damaged Structures

October 06, 1987|STEPHEN BRAUN and MARITA HERNANDEZ | Times Staff Writers

State disaster officials asked for federal aid Monday to help the owners of 10,600 earthquake-damaged homes and businesses in Los Angeles and Orange counties while Red Cross volunteers sought long-term shelter for 1,400 displaced victims.

Late Monday, Gov. George Deukmejian asked President Reagan and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to declare major disaster areas in the two counties, where a 6.1 earthquake and a 5.5 aftershock have caused more than $125 million in damage.

The declaration would clear the way for federal disaster relief for more than 12,000 people forced from 9,164 homes and 1,455 businesses damaged by Thursday's and Sunday's quakes, which struck hardest in several San Gabriel Valley cities.

The temblors along the Whittier Fault have killed three area residents, injured hundreds more and may be linked to four fatal heart attacks. The toll to private property has been enormous, costing homeowners and merchants more than $117 million. Another $8.1 million in losses resulted from damage to government buildings and public roads.

Hundreds of the dispossessed continued to camp out in parks and near their shattered homes, fearing more aftershocks. Some were persuaded to sleep under circus tents erected by the Red Cross.

Besides his disaster request, Deukmejian said he had notified the Legislature's top leaders that he was considering calling lawmakers into special session if necessary to vote additional assistance to earthquake victims.

A presidential disaster declaration would clear the way for individual and family grants of up to $5,000, temporary housing assistance and low-interest loans to repair and rebuild homes and businesses damaged by the earthquakes.

Disaster centers are expected to be set up throughout the devastated areas to assist victims in filing claims.

Deukmejian also ordered the state Office of Emergency Services and other state agencies to consider increasing the amount of individual and family grants, providing state grants to offset the cost of repairing damage to county, city and school district facilities and to seek the cooperation of banks and credit institutions in taking into account "the disastrous conditions" that have affected borrowers.

In the stricken cities of the San Gabriel Valley, local disaster officials were still contending with safety problems caused by the Sunday aftershock.

Aftershocks continued to rumble, including a 3.4 tremor recorded just after midnight Monday that caused frightened residents to flee their homes again. Several displaced quake victims who had spent the night at Red Cross shelters left their cots to camp out on lawns and sidewalks.

Concerned about the fate of crumbling buildings in Uptown Whittier, city officials Monday declared 12 blocks of the district a disaster area and directed businesses not to reopen until further inspections are completed. More than 100 businesses will be affected.

'Real Concerns' for Safety

"In looking more closely at the buildings, we have some real concerns for public safety," City Manager Thomas G. Mauk said Monday.

Although the area was closed to traffic, police said hundreds of people ducked under yellow crowd-control tape to get closer looks at the destruction. None were arrested, and they ducked back after warnings from police officers.

Mauk said the disaster-area designation was imposed under an emergency provision of state law allowing the use of police power to keep unauthorized persons out of the district.

He said the action was taken because of the possibility of further aftershocks, to keep sightseers away and to allow building owners time to hire structural engineers for more extensive inspections.

Some merchants complained about the move, while others preferred to remain cautious only a day after the city was rocked by the 5.5 aftershock.

Major Cracks

"If we lose customers due to fear, we may lose them forever," lamented Warren Lee, whose greeting card store was declared unsafe.

The Salvation Army's Whittier Corps Building was ordered condemned after it sustained major cracks in the roof and walls as well as substantial shifting in the walls, ceilings and support beams in Thursday's temblor and Sunday's aftershock.

Because of damage to the building, which had been used by the agency as a shelter and feeding center, quake victims will be housed at an alternate site nearby. Three emergency canteens are also delivering food to other shelters in the area, Salvation Army Lt. Arnold Hassler said.

Fears about the sturdiness of other shelters throughout Los Angeles County have caused scores of jittery quake victims to camp out on lawns and sidewalks, fearing new aftershocks. The Red Cross, which has already spent more than $1 million housing about 1,400 quake victims at eight shelters, said open-air circus tents are being set up in some areas to accommodate those sleeping outside.

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