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Search For Bodies to Take Days : State Puts Toll at 273, Then Says It Is Uncertain

October 19, 1989|KEVIN RODERICK | Times Staff Writer

"If I had taken any time getting out of the building, talking to my friends, I would have been in that bottom layer when the sections fell down and left those cars 6 inches tall," she said. The concert was cancelled.

Authorities in San Francisco are using dogs trying to find bodies or survivors of a massive fire that leveled a block of apartment buildings in the Marina District Tuesday night.

"There have got to be people in there -- unless we got real lucky," said Joseph Surdyka, the city's administrative coroner.

There also were three murders that police chief Frank Jordan said were not related to the quake. About 209 people were treated for injuries, 25 of them critical.

Among the dead were two people on the second floor of a collapsed four story, 30-unit apartment complex at the corner of Cervantes and Fillmore, also in the Marina District. They were heard alive about 7 p.m. Tuesday, buried in debris and pleading for help.

"All we could see were their hands sticking out of the rubble," said an emergency medical technician at the scene Wednesday. "They were screaming that they were suffocating." Firefighters tried to feed them oxygen, but the paramedic said: "When I went in at 10 p.m. they were dead." Their bodies had still not been recovered Wednesday afternoon.

Ken Dorrance, co-owner of the building, said a third person believed to have been residing on a lower floor at the time of the earthquake was also missing.

Dogs were busy probing the remains of more than a dozen collapsed and heavily damaged buildings in the Marina district for survivors and bodies. "We have completed searching through six collapsed buildings as best we could," said fire Dept. Capt. John Rebholtz. "At least five more buildings will have to be razed by heavy equipment."

The damage in the newer Marina area came as a surprise to city officials, who expected to find most problems in the older, rundown Tenderloin section or in Chinatown. But streets in the Marina area buckled and many buildings there will have to be condemned, officials said.

"It is not as big as it could have been, but we have all (the damage) we could handle," said Carl B. Koon, head of the city's office of emergency services. "Overall we came out OK." Deputy Fire Chief Michael Farrell said he saw "three or four buildings that used to be four stories high and now they are one story high."

Presbyterian Church officials said Wednesday that the Seventh Ave. Presbyterian Church in San Francisco was "severely damaged."

Teams of inspectors from the city and from Bechtel Co. went building by building looking for structural damage through the financial district.

"The high rises did extremely well," said Nicholas Duchon, a structural engineer from Bechtel. However, Duchon and city engineer Jim Buker -- pointing to damage to several brick buildings up the block -- noted that older structures didn't fare so well.

The city was dark through the night, allowing thousands of residents and stranded workers who spent the hours outside an unusual glimpse of stars. Headlights and an occasional building running on emergency generators were the only bright lights. Among the landmarks that remained lit were San Francisco General Hospital and the glass-front Davies Symphony Hall downtown, but the usually well-lit Bay Bridge was dark except for the flashing lights of emergency crews.

Mayor Art Agnos, tieless and weary looking, gave periodic briefings throughout the day Wednesday. After a tour of the Marina area, Agnos said, "I was dumbstruck by the enormity of the earthquake damage ... It was very scary, very tragic."

He praised the "heroic performances" of the people of San Francisco, whom he credited with aiding their neighbors and acting calmly in the face of disaster. Desite minor looting and a few commercial burglaries, crime was down sharply Tuesday night, he said. Power was gradually restored in the city Wednesday and transportation returned to normal, he said.

In Santa Cruz County, the epicenter of the quake, five bodies have been found so far but officials said there could be others.

Two died when buildings collapsed in the Pacific Garden Mall, a pedestrian mall in downtown Santa Cruz. One died when a bakery collapsed in Watsonville, another in a nursing home and another in a traffic crash following the quake.

In all, 40 buildings collapsed in Santa Cruz and Watsonville, where damage was estimated at $350 million, Santa Cruz County emergency services coordinator Dinah Phillips said. Hospitals remain open, but Highway 17, the main link to San Jose, was blocked by landslides and fissures. The highway crosses the San Andreas Fault near the quake's epicenter.

A wildfire had consumed 650 acres, while 25 buildings had also been burned by small fires. Officials were advising residents to boil all water because of concerns about broken water and sewer lines.

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