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Quake Causes Millions in Damage to Harvested Crops

October 22, 1989

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Millions of dollars worth of fruits and vegetables were destroyed in the Northern California earthquake, with much of it crushed in warehouse collapses or spoiled in frozen-food processing plants brought to a halt.

And agricultural workers, many of them living in substandard houses knocked down by the quake, have scattered or are too busy finding housing to return to the fields or help clean up, officials said.

Cans and drums filled with 400,000 tons of the San Francisco Bay area summer tomato harvest came tumbling down in many of the 14 corrugated steel wall warehouses of Hollister.

An ammonia leak at the Green Giant frozen food plant in Watsonville could result in $20 million worth of losses in frozen Brussels sprouts, broccoli and other vegetables.

″The loss will be in the millions,″ said Steve Arnoldy, director of operations for San Benito Foods, which owns six of the Hollister tomato warehouses. ″Some of our buildings we can’t even get into. It’s a miracle there was no one in the warehouses.″

Crops in the field were only slightly affected by irrigation pumps temporarily stopped because of electrical power outages in the earthquake on Tuesday.

Del Mar Foods in Watsonville, a medium-sized food processor, resumed operation Thursday when electrical power was restored, said Del Mar President P.J. Mecozzi.

Cool weather kept unprocessed food from spoiling, but a lack of returning workers has delayed cleanup of about $1 million worth of goods that fell from warehouse pallets during the quake.

″We’ve had a hard time getting our crews back to work because they have been displaced from their homes,″ Mecozzi said.

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