L.A. County firefighters ready to deploy to Nepal

LOS ANGELES COUNTY >> A highly trained team of more than 70 Los Angeles County firefighters stood by at the ready Saturday, ready to depart for Nepal to aid in rescue efforts at a moments notice, officials said.
The Urban Search and Rescue team, known as Task Force II, is one of two in the nation qualified to go overseas to help in disasters such as the deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal, fire Capt. Roland Sprewell said. The other team of firefighters, known as Task Force 1, is based in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Firefighters were “chomping at the bit” to help victims in Nepal, but had not yet received orders to deploy from USAID, Sprewell said. Meanwhile, they readied their equipment.
“It looks like things are pretty much packed up,” Sprewell said. “That way, then it’s time to launch, all we have to do is go,” the captain said. Once the order is received, the firefighter-paramedics could be on a Nepal-bound airplane within hours.
“This is what these guys train for,” Sprewell said.

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UPDATED: 26 Fullerton homes red-tagged due to earthquake; aftershocks continue

The magnitude-5.1 earthquake centered just east of La Habra on Friday night was felt throughout the region, however the damage it caused was primarily isolated to a pocket of northern Orange County, where 26 homes were red-tagged, officials said.
Dozens of aftershocks continued to rumble through the night, including one measured at magnitude 3.6 at 9:30 p.m. Friday, and another measured at magnitude 3.4 at 9:02 a.m. Saturday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
And more were expected, USGS Geophysicist Doug Given said.
“We anticipate there will be a few more,” he said.
“This is fairly typical aftershock activity for an event this size,” Given said. “This is maybe a little on the energetic side.”
Over the next seven days, “We have been saying there is about a 5 percent chance of a larger earthquake to come,” he said. “But that chance is front-loaded.”
As time passes, large aftershocks become increasingly less likely to occur, he explained. “That likelihood is decaying very rapidly.”
The quake rattled windows and nerves throughout Orange and Los Angeles Counties, but Fullerton was hardest hit by the quake.
As officials made damage assessments overnight and into Saturday, 20 apartment units and six houses in Fullerton were deemed uninhabitable and red-tagged, Fullerton police Sgt. Mike Chlebowski said.
Residents would not be allowed to reoccupy the homes until they were checked out by an inspector, he said.
And work on a ruptured water main at Rosecrans Avenue and Gilbert Road Street continued to force a road closure Saturday morning, Chlebowski said.
But no earthquake-related injuries had been reported Saturday, in Fullerton or elsewhere.
La Habra had been spared an significant structural damage, La Habra police Lt. Kyle Davis said. “It all seems cosmetic at this point.”
No buildings had been red-tagged, though a couple dozen La Habra residents had evacuated their homes voluntarily due to safety concerns, Davis said.
Authorities had initially feared possible structural damage at three apartment buildings that were especially rocked by the quake in the 2500 block West Whittier Boulevard, the 400 block of North Idaho Street and the 700 block of West First Avenue, Davis said.
Considering how close La Habra lies to the earthquake’s epicenter, “We fared pretty well,” he said.
“The La Habra Police Department has received multiple reports of broken windows throughout the community, with some areas reporting natural gas smells,” La Habra city officials said in a written statement.
“Gas was shut off in the 1200 block of (South) Beach (Boulevard), as a precautionary measure. LA Fitness, which is located in one of the shopping complexes near the intersection of Imperial (Highway) and Beach (Boulevard), had water running off the roof. At Beach (Boulevard) and Lambert (Road), the traffic signal was hanging precariously, but it has since been removed.
Reports of natural gas leaks were also widespread in Rowland Height, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said.
A ruptured pipe caused water to flow from the ceiling of a Rite Aid Pharmacy along Colima Road, but the issue was handled within about 20 minutes, Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Cheryl Sims said. Officials had previously reported the incident as occurring at a pharmacy along Nogales Street.
Near Brea, a rockslide along Carbon Canyon Road was blamed for causing a car to overturn, Brea police said. The crash resulted in only minor injuries, however the roadway near the county line remained closed Saturday.
The Red Cross set up an evacuation shelter at the La Habra Community Center, 101 W. La Habra Boulevard, where 38 people spent the night, Red Cross spokeswoman Meredith Mills said. It remained open through Saturday morning.
“We’re definitely here to help people if they need it,” Mills said.
A preliminary survey found “no significant reports of damage” in Los Angeles County, according to a statement issued by the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management.
Los Angeles County’s bridges and other infrastructure were also free from reported damage Saturday, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works officials said.
Friday’s earthquake was believed to be associated with the far east end of the Puente Hills Thrust fault system, Given said. “This is the fault system that, on its northern edge, was responsible for the Whittier Narrows Earthquake in 1987,” Given said. Prior to the Whittier Narrows earthquake, the fault system had been unknown.
Scientists in Pasadena had a four second warning before the shaking reached them from the La Habra area thanks to an experimental early warning system that’s been in operation for two years, Givens said.
Givens said he hoped increased funding on the federal and national levels would soon help bring the technology to the mainstram, as has been done in Japan and Mexico City.
About 200 Southern California Gas Company customers remained without service Saturday morning as crews rushed to fix leaks and restore service to customers whose gas was shut off my earthquake valves, according to the utility. Those who suspect a natural has leak were advised to leave the area immediately and report the leak by calling 800-427-2200.
Southern California has not experienced a devastating earthquake since the 1994 magnitude-6.7 Northridge quake killed several dozen people and caused $25 billion in damage.
Preliminary data suggest Friday night’s 5.1 magnitude earthquake occurred near the Puente Hills thrust fault, which stretches from the San Gabriel Valley to downtown Los Angeles and caused the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake, USGS seismologist Lucy Jones said.
“It’s a place where we’ve had a lot of earthquakes in the past,” she said.
The 5.9 Whittier Narrows quake killed eight people and caused $360 million in damage.
Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully was on the air calling the Angels-Dodgers exhibition game in the sixth inning at Dodger Stadium when Friday’s quake occurred.
“A little tremor here in the ballpark. I’m not sure if the folks felt it, but we certainly felt it here in press box row,” Scully said. “A tremor and only that, thank goodness.”
Tom Connolly, a Boeing employee who lives in La Mirada, the next town over from La Habra, said the magnitude-5.1 quake lasted about 30 seconds.
“We felt a really good jolt. It was a long rumble and it just didn’t feel like it would end,” he told The Associated Press by phone. “Right in the beginning it shook really hard, so it was a little unnerving. People got quiet and started bracing themselves by holding on to each other. It was a little scary.”
Friday’s quake hit a week after a pre-dawn magnitude-4.4 quake centered in the San Fernando Valley rattled a swath of Southern California. That jolt shook buildings and rattled nerves, but did not cause significant damage.
Givens said that quake was not associated with the same fault system believed responsible for Friday’s earthquake near La Habra.
Officials throughout the region said the earthquake was a stark reminder for California residents to be prepared for earthquakes with supplies and plans.
“Clearly we cannot predict earthquakes, we can only say things about the statistics of earthquakes,” Given said. “Based on the best science of the faults and the earthquake history in Southern California, in the Los Angeles region, there’s a 97 percent chance in the next 30 years of a magnitude 6.7 or larger.”

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The big one

Get those emergency supplies ready. Caltech scientists working with the United States Geological Survey have modeled the next big quake based on last week’s temblor in China. Here’s their scenario for a 7.8 magnitude event along the San Andreas fault in Southern California:


_10 a.m.: The San Andreas Fault ruptures, sending shock waves racing at 2 miles per second.

_30 seconds later: The agricultural Coachella Valley shakes first. Older buildings crumble. Fires start. Sections of Interstate 10, one of the nation’s major east-west corridors, break apart.

_1 minute later: Interstate 15, a key north-south route, is severed in places. Rail lines break; a train derails. Tremors hit burgeoning Riverside and San Bernardino counties east of Los Angeles.

_1 minute, 30 seconds later: Shock waves advance toward the Los Angeles Basin, shaking it violently for 55 seconds.

_2 minutes later: The rupture stops near Palmdale, but waves march north toward coastal Santa Barbara and into the Central Valley city of Bakersfield.

_30 minutes later: Emergency responders begin to fan across the region. A magnitude-7 aftershock hits, but sends its energy south into Mexico. Several more big aftershocks will hit in following days and months.

Major fires following the quake would cause the most damage, said Keith Porter, of the University of Colorado.

Here’s the latest quake map depicting western China

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Awaiting word from Sichuan

The Times found some Sichuan immigrants in the San Gabriel Valley who are anxiously awaiting word from their relatives in China’s Sichuan Provence, which was devastated by a 7.9 earthquake earlier this week.


But Monday’s earthquake has thrust a community used to being overlooked and misunderstood to the forefront of Southern California’s bustling Chinese American community. For the Sichuanese who gathered for lunch Thursday at Chung King restaurant in San Gabriel, it was a bittersweet experience.

“We feel extreme sadness,” said Tang, a nanny. “The only way Sichuan is being mentioned now is through this tragedy.”

It’s been a nightmarish week for the lunch group, many of whom met after overhearing one another speak Sichuanese at a supermarket.

The Chinese community in the United States was founded mostly by Southern immigrants from China’s coastal regions. That’s why the Cantonese and Taishanese dominated Chinatowns for decades. That changed with the influx of immigrants from Taiwan, then Beijing and Shanghai.

Though there are no statistics available, observers say Sichuanese immigrants began arriving steadily in the San Gabriel Valley in the 1990s. Many took the route of earlier immigrants by seeking jobs in restaurants or the import-export business. The number of Sichuanese living in Southern California is unclear because they lack the family associations and student groups that are ubiquitous with immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan and areas of mainland China.


For the first time since 1949, according to Sina News (as translated by Google), China will accept help from other countries as it recovers from the quake:

After the disaster, many countries and international organizations issued statements one after another, the people of China expressed condolences, some countries have begun to China financial and material assistance. The international media also to China’s earthquake was significant, concern is comprehensive, and the first time for China immediately started rescue operations that respect.

May 13, the State Council Information Office held a news conference.  In the conference, the Ministry of Civil Affairs disaster relief Secretary, said Wang Zhenyao, China is very grateful for the generous assistance of the international community, will accept donations of time and timely delivery of disaster areas.

Finally, here’s a translated blog from Sina.com that points to Google maps, and other information from the quake zone

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China death toll rises to 12,000

I’ve bee surfing the web today to see how much information is able to flow out of China in the wake of the devastating 7.9 magnitude quake that shook Chengdu Province this week.

The raw news and photos are grim:

AP is reporting that as many as 12,000 are now dead and 20,000 are missing.

Here’s some Chinese media reports via Google translator. 

Here’s a page of video images from near the epicenter.

Emergency.com reports.

What about the Pandas?

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