Nerves Still Rattled Month After Southern California Quake
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ In the month since a major earthquake rocked Southern California the damaged buildings have been torn down and emergency shelters have been closed, but there are still plenty of frazzled nerves and unsettled lives.
Over the years, residents spoiled by year-round good weather and pleasant surroundings had largely ignored warnings that a destructive quake was imminent in a region riddled by earthquake faults.
But that comfortable lifestyle was jolted at 7:42 a.m on Oct. 1, when an earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale made the ground heave.
The earthquake and its aftershocks, one of which was nearly as strong as the original temblor, caused $213 million in damage and killed seven people.
For many, the fear has not yet gone away.
″There are still people who are upset and are requesting assistance,″ said Dr. Marvin Marsh, assistant medical director for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. ″They are having reoccurrences, re- experiencing the quake, the shaking.″
The health department has offered counseling to thousands of people since the quake. Although the demand has declined, people are still traumatized or anxious to help frightened children, Marsh said.
″It’s not unusual for 25 percent or more of people to have sleep disorders or intrusions in their thoughts that this is going to happen again,″ he said. ″We know this post-traumatic stress can last a week or six months. But sometimes it could come on six months later.″
Local, state and federal agencies continue to offer other assistance to quake victims.
More than 18,000 people have applied for low-interest federal loans to make their damaged homes habitable, said Charles Raudebaugh of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Checks for more than $1 million have already been mailed to 1,500 applicants, he said.
The American Red Cross opened nearly a dozen shelters to house people displaced by the quake, but has closed them after assisting 6,000 people, said Angela Tabar of the agency’s Los Angeles chapter. But three Red Cross service offices remain open to aid people seeking temporary housing or other assistance.
The charity is especially working to help terrified Central American immigrants who survived killer quakes in their homelands and feared the same degree of destruction here. Dozens slept in city parks the week after the quake because they thought buildings would collapse. Red Cross volunteers continue to counsel the immigrants and urge them to seek financial help, Ms. Tabor said.
California legislators are preparing for a special session to seek ways to help people and governments that suffered damage.
That session, beginning Nov. 9, will include a public hearing in Whittier, hardest hit by the earthquake.
Physical reminders of the quake remain there, including bricks piled on curbs and sidewalks everywhere. They came from the dozens of chimneys that crumbled and the old masonry buildings in the business district that had to be leveled because they had suffered too much damage. Contractors said the bricks will be sold and used again.
Rebuilding has not yet begun, but planning for the next earthquake has.
Many people are stocking up on emergency supplies. Kathy Gannon, who founded Western Earthquake Readiness in Irvine two years ago, said her emergency supply business has soared since Oct. 1.
″I had expected the demand to taper off, but it hasn’t,″ Ms. Gannon said.
Several seminars have been held for city officials and building engineers on how to prepare communities for an earthquake and how to save buildings.
″They now see the damage that the Whittier quake caused and they want to do something,″ said John Kariotis, an engineer specializing in making earthquake-prone buildings safe, during a seminar in Long Beach last week.
And the Los Angeles City Council has allocated thousands of dollars to train neighborhood watch groups in earthquake safety because officials have warned that it may take days for help to reach some communities after a massive earthquake.
Residents will be taught first aid, firefighting techniques and other skills to help their neighborhoods survive, Councilman Hal Bernson said.