Damage Tally Still Rising Week After Quake : Earthquake: Pomona, Claremont and La Verne officials say few people have been displaced and few businesses closed. But losses approach $10 million.


A week after a strong earthquake and hundreds of aftershocks, officials in Pomona, Claremont and La Verne were still adding up the damage Wednesday, inspecting cracks in buildings and waiting to hear from state and federal officials on the availability of aid.

The 5.5-magnitude quake, centered three miles northwest of Upland in San Bernardino County, did much of its damage in eastern Los Angeles County. Losses in the three cities approach $10 million, according to the latest estimates.

"We're still getting calls coming in," said La Verne Fire Chief Robert Miller. "It may be seven to 10 days before we know how many residential structures were damaged."

Much of the damage to homes and businesses is minor. Few residents have been displaced and few businesses have been forced to close.

But at Mt. San Antonio Gardens, a retirement complex that straddles Pomona and Claremont, 78 residents of a four-story building were evacuated Friday night and will be kept out of their apartments indefinitely while structural damage is repaired.

Ted Radamaker, executive director of the 460-resident retirement center, said some of the displaced residents moved into other buildings in the 28-acre complex and some went to live with their families. But 35 residents have moved to Griswold's Claremont Center, a hotel about five blocks away.

"It's inconvenient," said Emily Ronfeldt, a 75-year-old retired teacher who is one of those who moved to Griswold's. "But we're so lucky."

Ronfeldt said she and her husband came through the quake unhurt. The temporary move to Griswold's, she said, is less traumatic than their decision a year ago to give up their nine-room house in Claremont and move into the retirement complex.

In Claremont, 11 businesses in the two-story Harvard Square building remain closed because of structural damage that is being repaired.

"We hope to reopen by the weekend," said Joan Bunte, owner of the Craft Designs gift shop.

Bunte, who was in her shop when the main quake struck said, "It was sort of like a horror movie with stuff flying around." Pottery and glassware broke, she said, but no one was hurt.

The experience was so unnerving, Bunte said Tuesday, that "today was basically the first time I could talk about this earthquake without crying. It has been so traumatic. I finally let my daughter go home to her apartment today. I thought I could be grown up and stay by myself."

Caltech spokesman Robert Finn said there have been 400 to 500 aftershocks since the Feb. 28 temblor, about three dozen of them large enough to be felt. He said the number of aftershocks was not unusually high. Seismologists have not yet agreed on which fault was responsible for the quake.

In Claremont, City Manager Glenn Southard said the city has estimated the damage at about $1 million. Major reported losses are $400,000 to $600,000 at the Claremont Colleges and $100,000 to grocery and liquor stores. About 150 houses have damaged chimneys.

In La Verne, Fire Chief Miller said 15 businesses have damage estimated to total $375,000 and about 100 residences, including some mobile homes, sustained damage estimated at $1 million.

In Pomona, officials have estimated the damage at almost $7 million. Nearly 600 buildings were damaged. By Wednesday, 25 buildings were still in such hazardous shape that entry was being restricted.

California Conservation Corps crews have been working in Pomona and La Verne to tear down damaged chimneys at no cost to homeowners.

The La Verne City Council this week adopted a policy of waiving building permits for property owners repairing quake damage.

Jim Alexander, regional administrator of the state Office of Emergency Services, said that whether property owners will be able to apply for low-cost loans to repair damage hasn't been decided.

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