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5.1 Aftershocks Rock Southland : Clinton Visits L.A., Vows Aid; Toll Climbs to 47 : Disaster: Commutes are slow and the safety of many buildings is still uncertain. Gov. Wilson's office says the disaster could be the costliest in U.S. history.

January 20, 1994|DAVID LAUTER and SONIA NAZARIO | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

On Sunswept Drive in Studio City, Michael Minkow, 49, his wife, Lola, 46, and mother, Rose, 75, survived when their four-story hillside house imploded and slid. But the body of Lola's mother, Beatrice Baitman, 69, was found in the early evening Wednesday still in bed and buried under 20 feet of tile, concrete and glass.

The bodies of Robert (Sarge) Pauline, 72, and his wife, Judith Ng, 42, were found Tuesday night in their Van Nuys home in the 14200 block of Kittridge Street after neighbors alerted police patrols that they had not been seen since the quake.

Pauline, a retired photographer, artist and occasional movie extra, and Ng, who worked in the Los Angeles Housing Department, were found crushed under hundreds of pounds of books, model trains and the other collectibles that were their hobby.

"They were eccentric, but they were kind, friendly people," said Jeff Ng, the victim's brother, as he delved through hundreds of videocassette tapes hoping to find a recorded will. "They collected things, stacks of stuff. They had a pathway to get around."

A 62-year-old man was found Wednesday dead of what was thought to be a quake-related heart attack suffered as he sat in a car in front of his partially collapsed Northridge home.

The Coming Rain

An estimated 18,000 people camped out in the city's parks Tuesday night--about half of them children--and officials said it is their top priority to find them housing before the arrival of rain, predicted for late Saturday night.

Storms could pose other problems as well: Damage to quake-damaged homes and landslides on hillsides stripped of vegetation during last fall's brush fires.

Curtis Brack, a meteorologist with WeatherData Inc., said there is a 40% chance of light showers this weekend and the possibility of several storms next week.

"We need to get those people out of the parks," said Jackie Tatum, general manager of the Department of Recreation and Parks. "It's unhealthy out there."

Tatum said her department will provide centers for the distribution of rain-proof plastic sheeting that residents can use to cover damaged roofs. The sheeting is also being used in some areas to cover vegetation-bare hillsides that could slide if wet.

Increasing the prospect of homelessness, however, were additional evacuation orders Wednesday by city inspectors at scores of buildings throughout the earthquake zone. An estimated 3,000 buildings had been checked by Wednesday evening but many more still needed to be examined for structural soundness and other safety problems.

In addition, the continuing aftershocks tended to reinforce the widely held perception that returning to any quake-damaged building is unsafe. Police Chief Willie L. Williams said that is not necessarily true, especially if city inspectors have declared a building fit for habitation.

"A crack in the wall doesn't mean that you can't go back home," Williams said.

The President Visits

As a small down payment on what Administration budget officials expect will be a multibillion-dollar federal relief effort, Clinton announced release of $45 million in emergency transportation grants to pay for removing rubble and beginning emergency repairs on freeways, and $95 million in Small Business Administration funds that will allow the agency to leverage up to $239 million in loans to area businesses.

During Clinton's five-hour tour, he got an earful from those struggling with the devastating after-effects of Monday's jolt. He walked briefly along Balboa Boulevard and Rinaldi Street in Granada Hills, shaking hands and listening to people whose homes had been destroyed and lives disrupted.

"No water. No electricity. I haven't had a shower in three days," said one man. Another told Clinton about a neighbor who had rescued his son from their crumbled house. And a woman who lost her house told Clinton she had seen stores jacking up prices for water and other necessities and had heard from friends who planned to try to cheat their insurance companies to gain extra money. People should "do the right thing, and we'll be all right," Clinton later said the woman had told him.

As he drove through the area, Clinton could see the sporadic and seemingly random nature of the earthquake damage--a crumbled house standing in a line with other houses apparently left intact, tents pitched in front yards and in a public park, a row of shattered windows covered with plywood.

Next week, once preliminary damage estimates are in, Clinton said he plans to send Congress a special budget request to cover the costs of cleaning up and rebuilding the region. Clinton may announce the request in next week's State of the Union speech, officials said.

Toll in Ventura County

"It's going up by the minute," Ventura County Supervisor Vicky Howard said of damage estimates. "At first blush we looked around and said we came through this pretty well. But as the hours and days passed we discovered that there is much more damage than we first thought."

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