California earthquake kills two - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

12.23.03

California earthquake kills two

At least two people died when a powerful earthquake shook California's central coast late Monday morning.

The quake, measuring 6.5 on the Richter Scale, knocked down buildings in downtown Paso Robles, and opened cracks on California's Highway One.

"Some people were running... other people were just in shock, said Bill Culver, one of the people who raced to downtown Paso Robles to help victims trapped in the rubble following the deadly earthquake.

"It was horrendous," said Culver.  "It was a loud crashing noise, when the earthquake was happening the ground was floating, you felt like you were on a waterbed trying to stand-up."

The historic town of Paso Robles suffered the most damage, when an old brick building that housed a jewelry store and a dress shop collapsed.

"It's just a little block here and we all know each other," said  Marilyn Curry, who witnessed the quake. "There were two ladies who were missing from the dress shop."

Two victims were crushed to death outside the dress shop.

Rescue crews labored to find more victims as more than 50 large aftershocks, as strong as 3.0 magnitude, continued to rattle nerves.

Bill Eellsworth of the United States Geological Service says people, "Should be prepared for some some shakes, hopefully nothing larger than magnitude of 3 or 4."

Scientists say the quake's epicenter was in a relatively unpopulated area, near the town of Cambria, about 200 miles south of San Francisco on a previously unknown fault line.

Geologists say its extremely fortunate that the large quake did not strike near a major metropolitan area.

The quake shook the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, the estate of the legendary publisher William Randolph Hearst. The castle reported no injuries and no signs of any serious damage. The castle was evacuated as a precaution.

The quake struck at 11:16 a.m. California time.

It caused a gentle sway in Los Angeles to the south and rocked San Francisco to the north.

Monday's temblor is the most powerful quake to hit California since one measuring 7.1 rocked the desert near Joshua Tree more than four years ago.  No one was killed in that quake.

Staff Report.  Email: newsroom@wect.com

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