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South Bay Averts Major Quake Damage--But Not Its Drama : Aftermath: Temblor occurred while a birth was in process at Torrance Memorial. 'While some people died, we were giving birth,' father says.

January 20, 1994|DEBORAH SCHOCH and LISA RICHARDSON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

While South Bay residents and businesses had their share of injuries, broken windows and power failures because of Monday's mighty earthquake, the devastation that crumpled buildings and freeways passed the area over.

Drama, however, did not.

At the moment when the earth began trembling across the South Bay, Wendy Gonzales was giving birth at Torrance Memorial Medical Center.

"We were really rolling," said Gonzales, 37, of Torrance. "A lot of things were falling. . . . I thought the building was going to collapse."

But Gonzales persevered, her husband, Eddie, at her side to reassure her, and Courtney Gonzales was officially born at 4:45 a.m. Monday, 14 minutes after the quake began at 4:31 a.m.

"I didn't have any drugs whatsoever. I wish I did," Wendy Gonzales said.

Eddie Gonzales was still reeling from the morning's events: "It hasn't hit me yet, what happened," he said Monday afternoon. "It's amazing, that something like this could happen. While some people died, we were giving life to a child."

Hospitals in the South Bay treated at least 153 people Monday and Tuesday for injuries caused by the earthquake.

Two men died after suffering heart problems that are thought to have been quake-related. Their names had not been released Tuesday.

One victim, a 56-year-old Inglewood man, was taken to Centinela Hospital Medical Center at 5:10 a.m. Monday and died at 5:42 a.m.

A Gardena man, 73, arrived at Memorial Hospital of Gardena at 6:02 a.m. Monday and died at 8:50 a.m. Most of those who flocked to area hospitals suffered injuries such as fractures, sprains and cuts, according to officials at 10 South Bay hospitals.

For many South Bay residents, the quake was mainly a source of inconvenience, as power, gas and water lines broke.

About 70,000 Southern California Edison customers lost power in the South Bay, but service was restored within minutes to about 40,000 households and businesses, said spokesman Ted Porter. Another 24,000 got power by 2 p.m., and service was fully restored about 6 p.m., he said.

Residents probably saw flares from the refineries lighting the pre-dawn sky. Company spokesmen said fuel lines were shut down as a precaution after the quake, and gas fumes were burned to relieve pressure on the lines. The fumes cause less pollution when burned, said Texaco spokeswoman Barbara Kornylo.

Burning took place at the Ultramar, Texaco and Unocal Los Angeles refineries, all in Wilmington. All three had power failures that stopped their operations temporarily after the quake.

The earthquake wreaked the most harm to the Redondo Beach King Harbor Marina, which suffered about $4 million in damage. A sand-filled roadway leading to the docks liquefied and heaved under the pressure of the quake, damaging cars and about six boats. Damage also was reported to streets and a parking lot at the harbor.

At the Port of Los Angeles, the quake damaged two berths. A fissure developed in the asphalt at American President Lines Terminal at Berth 126 and another was discovered across the West Basin at Berth 146-147, said spokeswoman Julia Nagano. No damage to ships was reported.

Other damage to the port was minor, Nagano said.

At the Hawthorne Plaza, a 30-foot bridge connecting two parking garages collapsed during the quake, but no one was hurt, a spokesman said.

The parking structure and the bridge had been closed for some time, the spokesman said.

The former City Hall building in San Pedro, which is scheduled for a $14-million renovation in December, creaked and groaned, and the plaster fell down in spots, but the building withstood the quake, officials said. Libraries in Inglewood, Westchester, Harbor City, Wilmington and San Pedro were closed after the temblor.

Despite the minimal damage in the South Bay, many residents have sought to join the quake recovery effort--Harbor area Councilman Rudy Svorinich said his office has received numerous calls from people offering their help.

"While the Harbor area received negligible damage, but for the grace of God we might have been in the same situation," Svorinich said. "We are very empathetic with people in other parts of the city who have lost loved ones and are suffering right now."

Svorinich's office is working with the San Pedro branch of the American Red Cross and is accepting monetary donations on its behalf.

Donations may be made to The American Red Cross, L.A. Earthquake, 1499 W. 1st St., San Pedro, 90732, or they may be mailed to Svorinich's Harbor District office at old San Pedro City Hall at 638 S. Beacon St., Suite 200, San Pedro, 90731.

Times staff writer Ted Johnson contributed to this report.

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