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.
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.
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.