Los Angeles is as vulnerable as Mexico City has been. The great quake that likely will happen to Los Angeles could take tens of thousands of lives. San Francisco waits, too. The realities of this quake probably defy description. Tremendous obstacles most likely will block most of the efforts of rescuers.
In the February, 1971, quake 19 freeway overhead spans crashed to earth; what if 190 were to fall simultaneously, and in all areas of the L.A. Basin? Would enough remaining freeways and surface streets be open for ambulances? If not, are there enough usable landing strips (near hospitals) so that transport planes carrying doctors, nurses and medical supplies could arrive? Are there enough portable field hospitals? Do hospitals, fire departments, police agencies and the National Guard have master plans of action?
The questions about L.A.'s vulnerabilities might be endless. That 1971 shaker might have been a mere sampling of the enormous event that might come--and of the chaos that would be inevitable.
Maybe some good can come of this terrible disaster in Mexico: we can learn to be ready--ready as cities and ready as individuals. It might be our turn next. Over and over we hear zillions of questions about our helplessness in such a situation; television and radio programs provide an abundance of talk about readiness, of vulnerabilities and of logistical problems--much talk but absolutely no concrete answers. Mexico City’s residents (the largest city in the Western Hemisphere) most likely listened to the same gabbing on their television and radio stations, but their time arrived and it is a sad spectacle indeed.
What if a tremendous shaker of equal intensity were to hit Los Angeles or San Francisco?
CURTISS B. KELLOGG