California Estimates Easter Quake Damage at $91 Million

April 21, 2010

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has estimated the Easter earthquake caused about $91 million in damage in impoverished Imperial County.

Schwarzenegger’s office sent a letter to the federal government with the preliminary estimate and asked that the quake that left two people dead in Mexico be declared a major disaster.

The governor said the estimate could go higher after job losses from closed and damaged businesses in Calexico, El Centro and other areas were calculated.

The cactus-studded border county struggled with a staggering unemployment rate at 27 percent even before the quake hit.

Officials said the magnitude-7.2 quake also damaged homes, a dozen schools, hospital, wastewater facilities, water storage tank, roads and the All American Canal, which carries Colorado River water to the agricultural region and serves up to 35 percent of Imperial County’s population.

The canal suffered cracks that could result in “catastrophic failure,” according to the governor’s office.

More than 3,000 aftershocks caused further damage, the governor’s office said.

Schwarzenegger is asking Washington to provide disaster unemployment assistance for Imperial County, pointing out that on April 15 some 250 claims for unemployment benefits were filed by people who are out of work due to earthquake damage.

U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both California Democrats, reiterated the request for federal help in a letter sent to President Barack Obama, who visited Los Angeles on Monday to headline three fundraisers on behalf of Boxer and the Democratic National Committee.

The designation would make the county eligible for federal assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Obama is under no deadline to decide. If he does make the declaration, the federal government would cover 75 percent of the costs of repairing the damage, and state and local officials would pay 25 percent.

The April 4 quake centered in Baja California caused major damage in Mexico as well. Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon announced that his government is offering a package of tax and mortgage extensions and loans for the border city of Mexicali, across from Calexico.

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