Baja earthquake: 'Power lines were crashing against buildings'

The Baja earthquake centered 22 miles from the border town of Mexicali, Mexico, knocked buildings off their foundations and closed a busy US-Mexico port of entry Sunday.

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    A storefront in Calexico, Calif., had its windows broken by the powerful 7.2-magnitude Baja earthquake that rocked northern Baja California, Mexico, on Easter Sunday.
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The 7.2-magnitude Baja earthquake that struck northern Baja California Sunday afternoon, 20 miles from the Arizona-California border, was felt as far away as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.

In the desert cities of the region on both sides of the US-Mexico border, the 3:40 p.m. quake knocked buildings off foundations; threw chunks of facades into the streets; and shut down electric, Internet, and cellphone services. Furniture inside homes and businesses was upended. More than 30 aftershocks rattled the area as of 8:30 p.m., sending people into protective crouches or running outdoors.

The earthquake's epicenter was in Guadalupe Victoria, Mexico, 22 miles from the sprawling Baja state capital of Mexicali.

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There have been no reports of any major injuries in California's Imperial County, which borders Mexico, says Maria Carrillo, a county spokeswoman.

Mexicali hit harder

In Mexicali, a poor city of 760,000, the Cronica news website reported two deaths and that the Mexicali-Tijuana highway, a key link to the west, was impassible in at least one spot where a bridge had collapsed.

The Imperial County Emergency Operations Center "has been in contact with officials from Mexicali and are assisting in their requests for mutual aid," Ms. Carillo says. "Initial reports from Mexicali indicate widespread power and water outages and structural damage to some buildings."

The busy US-Mexican port of entry between Mexicali and Calexico, Calif., was closed because it "has major cracks in the plaster falling from walls and ceilings," says Victor Brabble, a spokesman for the El Centro Sector Border Patrol. Power was also knocked out to the port of entry.

Mr. Brabble does not know when the port will reopen. In the meantime, the Border Patrol is helping to maintain law and order, he says. "The Border Patrol is assisting its community partners in Calexico by keeping pedestrians away from damaged property to prevent looting or vandalism," he adds.

Residents talk about the quake

Alejandra Gastelum, a resident of Calexico, said she was returning from a visit with her grandmother in the Rio Culiacan district of Mexicali, about five miles south of the border, when the quake hit. "The power lines, which are everywhere in Mexicali, they were crashing against the buildings and falling all over the place. Windows were breaking everywhere," she said.

“If we hadn't been holding onto the wall, we'd have been knocked off our feet,” said Terri Peri, a Mahwah, N.J., accountant visiting her home town of El Centro, Calif., 30 miles from the epicenter.

She grew up in this agricultural area, which has frequent earthquakes, and said she was with her boys at a Holiday Inn Express when the rolling started. “At first I thought, ‘Yea! The kids are experiencing their first quake,' and then lamps were falling, glass was shattering, and the TV fell over,” she said.

Many gas stations in this area were closed as a safety precaution. Ruben Anaya, the manager of a Shell gasoline station in El Centro, said he closed his fueling stations following the earthquake. "If you don't shut it down, you don't know if they'll crack and start leaking through into the soil, or, well, cause an explosion," he said.

At the few that did remain open, long lines of cars formed, many of them recreational vehicles of tourists who come to the area during holidays like Easter for off-road desert racing.

Mexicali earthquake: What are the damage reports in L.A?

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