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Santa Cruz County, Closest To Epicenter, Assesses Damage With AM-SF Quake, Bjt

October 19, 1989

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) _ Residents mourned Wednesday over lost lives and ruined buildings in this handsome seaside city that was closest to the epicenter of the second- deadliest earthquake in U.S. history.

A downtown shopping center of renovated turn-of-the-century buildings, gardens and walkways was badly damaged during Tuesday evening’s 6.9-magnitude quake. Two people were killed.

″The downtown lost between 12 and 20 buildings - the heart of the community and its vitality,″ said Gary Patton, chairman of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors.

Five people died in the county. Authorities initially said 40 buildings were damaged beyond repair, but revised that figure to 25. Water, gas and sewage lines burst. Crews restored power and water service throughout the county Wednesday.

Also hard-hit by the quake was Los Gatos, an affluent hillside city in Santa Clara County, 40 miles northeast of here, where Victorian homes were shaken off their foundations and masonry buildings crumbled to the ground.

″I’ve got to somehow figure out how to get a ton of chimney off my roof,″ said Peter Cifelli, who spent the night with his wife and two daughters in their station wagon because they feared the chimney would plunge into their home.

The quake struck at 5:04 p.m. Tuesday along a segment of the San Andreas Fault eight miles northeast of Santa Cruz, a college town and popular vacation spot about 75 miles south of San Francisco.

The temblor was the most powerful since a 7.0 quake centered in Eureka in 1980.

Preliminary damage estimates to Santa Cruz County alone totaled $250 million to private property and $100 million to public property, said Dinah Phillips, the county’s emergency services coordinator.

In addition to the deaths in the Santa Cruz mall, one person was killed in a traffic accident south of the city when the car struck horses that had gotten loose on U.S. Highway 1, said Ms. Phillips.

The other dead included a person killed in the collapse of a bakery shop in Watsonville and an elderly nursing home patient in Santa Cruz who died of a heart attack, Ms. Phillips said.

Burst sewer lines sparked concerns over possible contamination to the water supply, and residents were told to boil water.

In Los Gatos, which bore the brunt of a moderate August earthquake, building inspectors concentrated on the historic old town section, where several blocks of commercial buildings and two homes were destroyed.

Along Main Street, buildings crumbled onto parked cars and the sidewalks buckled.

″I’ve felt all the earthquakes since I lived here, and this was the best one - my best near-death experience,″ said Ray Blair, an employee at Velomeister Cycles, who escaped through the front door as the building’s brick facade crumbled.