President Sees Quake Devastation as Search for Bodies Continues : Disaster: Damage estimates climb to more than $5.5 billion as forecast of rain adds to Bay Area's miseries.

From Associated Press

Workers zeroed in on remaining bodies buried under tons of freeway concrete Friday and scientists pinpointed the epicenter of the mammoth earthquake beneath a mountain creek. President Bush toured ravaged areas to offer sympathy and aid.

Damage estimates climbed to more than $5.5 billion throughout the 75-mile-long region. Officials declared the ornate 78-year-old Oakland City Hall unusable, and 26 buildings were closed indefinitely at Stanford University near Palo Alto, 35 miles south of San Francisco.

So far, 54 bodies of quake victims have been recovered. Dozens remain listed as missing.

To make matters worse, rain and temperatures in the 30s were forecast for the area over the weekend. Authorities said that could hamper rescue efforts.

"It depends on how hard the rain is. If it's not too hard we hope to be able to work through it," said Bob Jacobs, deputy district director of the California Department of Transportation.

Rain also heightened the threat of additional landslides in the mountains north of Santa Cruz, where 60 homes already have been destroyed in Boulder Creek, a town of 6,800.

About 100 residents were ignoring evacuation warnings.

"It's a dangerous area, but all my stuff is here. My dogs are here. I figured you go down with the ship. Where do you go?" said Todd Viele, 27.

Bush walked over chunks of concrete beside the 1 1/4-mile crumpled stretch of Interstate 880 in Oakland where scores of people were feared entombed and talked with rescue workers. He said he hoped to offer encouragement.

"I am deeply moved by this, saddened in some ways, yet very stimulated by this team effort," the President said.

Ironworker Joe Carter said the President asked him how his rescue crew felt.

"I told him . . . we're beat, we're tired, but we're still going at it," Carter said. Bush "let me know the eyes of the world are on us right now."

Administration officials worked on a program of aid as the President made his trip. Transportation Secretary Samuel K. Skinner offered no price tag but said the federal government would take on "a very, very major role in helping California."

In Washington, the State Department said California officials have turned down offers of earthquake help from 20 countries because they believe they have enough resources at hand.

Members of the San Francisco Giants, participants in baseball's suspended World Series, visited a downtown shelter Friday to hand out souvenir balls, caps and T-shirts to families left homeless by the quake.

A moderate aftershock measuring magnitude 4.0 struck near Santa Cruz at 5:50p.m., according to the Seismagraphic Station at the University of California at Berkeley.

The epicenter was located in the Santa Cruz mountains, but there was no immediate information on an exact location, and no immediate reports of damage.

At 1:13 a.m. Friday, an aftershock of magnitude 3.9 was centered about seven miles southwest of Los Gatos, Berkeley seismologists said. It was felt north and south of San Francisco.

More than 1,500 aftershocks have hit since Tuesday.

Scientists roaming through mountains southeast of San Francisco pinpointed the epicenter of Tuesday's 5:04 p.m. killer quake in the northeast corner of the Nisene Marks State Park, near the top of Aptos Creek, said Joseph Cotton with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park.

That's about 57 miles from San Francisco atop the San Andreas Fault, and just 14 miles northeast of hard-hit Santa Cruz, where 10,000 people were displaced from their homes.

By late Friday, rescuers had pulled out 33 bodies from the wreckage of the collapsed double-deck section of Interstate 880 across the bay in Oakland. About 2,000 people were injured, officials said.

Searchers have found 52 cars in the lower section of the freeway, but there may be more still buried in the rubble, California Highway Patrol Sgt. John Silva said. Authorities believe there are fewer than 30 cars remaining buried with bodies inside, he said.

"You see a car that's crushed, a lot of debris, you usually find the people slumped over the steering wheel," said Alameda firefighter Matt Tunney, who spent the night helping remove five bodies.

"I'd thought I'd seen everything. This is devastation, the worst disaster I've ever seen," he said.

One firefighter had tears in his eyes after crawling into an 18-inch-high opening to pull out the bodies of a 6-year-old girl and her mother.

"It kills you. It just kills you," said the firefighter, Lee Kraft. "The adults are no problem. But the kids. . . . "

Five psychologists are at the scene for the rescue workers.

Initially, authorities had estimated that 253 people were buried--based on an assumption that cars stretched bumper-to-bumper on the stretch of crushed lower level. The third game of the World Series, which was scheduled to begin shortly after the quake struck, may have kept commuters by televisions rather than on freeways, they said.

No new official estimate of fatalities was made. Oakland police gave estimates of missing people Friday varying from 97 to 167.

Electricity was restored to about 98% of the area, utility spokesman Greg Pruett said. A fleet of boats assembled to ferry commuters across the San Francisco Bay as business got closer to normal. The main lifeline between San Francisco and Oakland, the Bay Bridge, was closed with a 50-foot section collapsed. Estimates for its reopening have grown more pessimistic, with some officials saying it could take as long as two months.

Engineers hoped to use a floating crane to lift the fallen 200-ton, five-lane highway span onto a barge over the weekend and begin repairs, the transportation department said.

Legislation to waive the $100-million cap on emergency federal highway funds was introduced in the U.S. Senate Friday so that California could receive extra money for repairing the Bay Bridge and other federal highways.

In downtown Oakland, the quake ruined 13 commercial buildings and 1,400 residential units, including housing for 100 elderly residents now in shelters, officials said. More than 200 other buildings were damaged.

Only one case of looting was reported in Oakland, however, deputy Dist. Atty. John Adams said Friday.

Crucial city services were moved from City Hall to the Fire Department, and judges were conducting routine court business in jails because of damage to the courthouse.

The historic Amtrak railroad station in west Oakland incurred three big cracks and may have to be razed, officials said.

"One more good shake and the whole thing would have come down," said Amtrak employee Ron Young.

In all, Mayor Lionel Wilson estimated damages in Oakland at $1.3 billion--not including the Nimitz collapse.

At Stanford, 26 building were closed indefinitely, and university President Donald Kennedy said the destruction "certainly is going to add up in the many tens of millions of dollars."

In San Francisco, Mayor Art Agnos said the city's $5.9-million reserve fund has been depleted.

"On paper," he said, "the city is broke."

Gov. George Deukmejian said he would not hesitate to propose temporarily raising state sales taxes if more money is needed to rebuild.

Deukmejian said there is precedent for such a temporary tax hike, adding that gasoline taxes sometimes have been increased to pay for road repairs from natural disasters.

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