40 Aftershocks Recorded After 5.0 Quake at Malibu Rocks Wide Area; 4 Injured

From Times staff and wire reports

At least 40 aftershocks were recorded early today in the wake of an earthquake that was centered in the Malibu area, causing minor damage and slightly injuring at least four people.

The moderate quake, measuring 5 on the Richter scale, hit at 10:56 p.m. Wednesday. It was centered in Santa Monica Bay about 8 miles south of Malibu and was felt from San Diego County 100 miles south to Santa Barbara, about 100 miles to the north.

Caltech seismic analyst Steve Bryant said 20 aftershocks were recorded before 1 a.m.--the largest measuring 3.3 on a composite seismographic scale. Since 1 a.m., at least 20 more were registered, he said.

“With a quake this size, we expect to see (aftershocks) for several days,” Bryant said. “They should decrease after a while.”


An earthquake measuring 5 is classified as “moderate,” capable of causing minor damage if centered in an urban area.

The quake shook office buildings 25 miles away in downtown Los Angeles with a rolling motion for 10 to 15 seconds, but was felt as a sharp jolt closer to the epicenter.

In Malibu, an early assessment showed only minor damage, sheriff’s Lt. Jim Glazar said.

OC Arts Center Shaken

In Orange County, audible gasps and chatter rippled through the Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa during Wednesday night’s earthquake, which struck during a particularly dramatic moment in a performance of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” by New York City Opera.

As baritone Stephen Dickson was singing Papageno’s solo in which he contemplates suicide, the 3,000-seat hall began to shake, and opera-goers whispered and shifted nervously until it subsided a few seconds later.

“Right in the middle of the suicide solo--what a way to go,” a slightly jittery Dickson said after his performance. “Actually, earthquake never entered my mind. In this case, ignorance is bliss.”

No injuries or damage to the center were reported.

The rolling temblor was felt in some areas throughout Orange County but generated no damage or reports of injury, police said.

Few Calls Reported

In San Clemente, a dispatcher said police felt the two-story station rock from the quake but have had no reports of damage or injury. The dispatcher, who said the intensity of the quake almost sent her diving under her communications console, said the department had not received any calls from people inquiring about the quake.

Similarly, officials for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, fire agencies in north and west Orange County and other police agencies said they received only a handful of calls.

In Malibu, the rumble sent rocks tumbling down from the mountainside onto the road through Malibu Canyon and toppled bottles and jars from shelves at a Hughes’ Market, causing several thousand dollars damage to merchandise in the store, Manager Kelly Seidel said.

“It hit real hard down here,” Seidel said, noting that several shoppers in the store abandoned their shopping carts when the shaking started and ran outside.

Glazar said the quake also pushed six cans and a bottle of beer onto the floor of the evidence locker of the Malibu sheriff’s station, where they were being held for evidence.

“When the evidence custodian came in this morning, she found a big puddle of beer on the floor,” he said.

In Santa Monica, the quake shattered a 10-by-15-foot storefront window at a downtown J. C. Penney Co. and caused a few small cracks in the stucco at City Hall, police Lt. Roy McGinnis said.

Area hospitals reported that four people were treated for cuts and other minor injuries, including a woman who broke her foot when she jumped out of bed, hospital officials said.

The Department of Water and Power said more than 90,000 people were momentarily without electricity because of automatic shutdowns of some equipment due to the quake.