One-year anniversary of 7.2 Calexico earthquake

It was a year ago Monday that our region was hit by one of the strongest earthquakes in decades. A magnitude 7.2 quake, centered just south of Calexico, rocked San Diego and Mexico.   KUSI's Ed Lenderman visited the border city to see how the recovery is going, one year after extensive damage was done.

Already reeling from the recession, Calexico, the border farming community in Imperial County, has struggled to recover in the year since the big quake.

What they did is actually brace buildings using four-by-four and four-by-six wood pieces. From a neighborhood market on Calexico's older eastside to the city's downtown business district,
recovery, both physical and psychological, is still a long way from being complete.

A year ago on Easter Sunday afternoon, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck south of Calexico's sister border city, Mexicali.

No deaths or injuries occurred in Calexico, but two people were killed in Mexico and more than 100 were injured.

The strongest temblor to hit the region in decades was felt by 20 million people in Mexico, Southern California, Arizona and Nevada.

Buildings shook in downtown San Diego, Phoenix and Las Vegas. For days and weeks afterwards, strong aftershocks rattled nerves. In fact, a 4.3 aftershock occurred the day before KUSI's Ed Lenderman visited the quake site.

Lorena Martinez's family owns Tony's Market, a fixture in Calexico's eastside neighborhood. The family has spent $40,000 so far to retrofit the building. But the fact that there was no loss of life in this farming community of 38,000-plus stirs emotions.

Calexico fire captain Damien Gonzalez led us on a tour of shored up buildings, and vacant lots where buildings were razed, buildings that were each home to several businesses.  We got a lot of attention immediately after the quake, says a spokesperson for the chamber of commerce, but the state has done little to help us financially.

Businessman Morris Reisin, a chamber board member, says while things are starting to pick up, his sporting goods business was off 80-percent in the last year. He puts business losses for the city at least $30 million, likely a conservative figure, especially since Calexico was already reeling from the recession.

“It's a lot more than a double whammy,” says Reisin, pointing out how hard hit Mexicali was. Many Calexico businesses depend on Mexicali residents for 90-percent of their business. They're still suffering over there, a year later.

Then there's the increased border security issue. Still, wherever KUSI's Ed Lenderman went, he heard about the resiliency of the residents there.

“As we finished up with the fire captain, he talked about his community and its people,” said Lenderman, “the philosophy of the people here is 'we do whatever it takes to get it done,' and that's what they do.”

A difficult year compounded by the fact that strong aftershocks continue to rattle the area. The chamber spokesperson told KUSI's Ed Lenderman that even without the latest aftershock, there were a lot of residents fearing that there would be a quake on the first year anniversary of the 7.2 rattler. Physically and psychologically, the recovery continues.

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