Facebook Twitter



Three strong aftershocks rattled an already shaken northern California Thursday as relief poured into the earthquake-devastated Bay area and an army of workers hunted for people feared buried under a highway.

Hope was fading that anyone might still be alive under the tons of concrete, two days after a 1 1/4-mile-long slab of a double-deck freeway collapsed in Oakland. Authorities fear more than 250 were killed in the cave-in.There were signs of life slowly returning to normal. Power was restored in San Francisco's Financial District early Thursday, setting off thousands of alarms. Airports were open, and the region's subway system was working. All but 13 of the city's 165 public schools reopened Thursday, and school buses were operating.

Still, many offices remained closed. The Bay Bridge, the lifeline that links Oakland and San Francisco, was expected to be closed at least one or two more weeks while a collapsed section is repaired.

An aftershock that measured 5.0 on the Richter scale of ground motion struck at 3:15 a.m. and was centered near Watsonville, 10 miles south of Santa Cruz, according to the state Office of Emergency Services.

"It was real strong," said Kelly Johnston, an admitting clerk at AMI Community Hospital in Santa Cruz. "I ran to the doorway. Most people were just standing there frozen."

"No one is really sleeping around here," Watsonville resident John Murphy said.

Two other aftershocks measured 4.5. The aftershocks collapsed the damaged steeple of a Watsonville church and further damaged buildings in Santa Cruz, near the epicenter of Tuesday's 6.9 earthquake, state officials said.

As of early Thursday, more than 1,400 aftershocks were recorded.

Gov. George Deukmejian demanded an investigation into the collapse of Interstate 880 in Oakland, saying it should have been built to withstand the devastating force of Tuesday's earthquake.

The collapse "raises troubling questions for the entire state in terms of the construction of our freeways," Oakland Mayor Lionel Wilson said.

Largely because of the collapse of I-880, known as the Nimitz Freeway, the quake was the second-deadliest in U.S. history. It killed an estimated 270 people - 250 of them in the rubble of the Nimitz - and crippled transportation, electric power and commerce in the nation's fourth-largest metropolitan area, a region of more than 6 million people.

Besides the commuters crushed in the freeway collapse, at least 21 people died in San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. State officials said 1,400 people were injured throughout the Bay area, although hospitals said they treated 2,750 people, many for chest pains.

San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos said the quake caused $2 billion worth of destruction in his city alone.

President Bush, sharply criticized in South Carolina for his response to Hurricane Hugo, quickly declared the San Francisco region a disaster area and directed an initial $273 million in relief efforts. He said he would tour the area Friday.

In the affluent Marina district, two bodies were spotted in the rubble of a four-story apartment building. Their hands were clutched in an embrace, said Dr. Charles Saunders of the city Health Department.

"There were no signs of life," he said. "It's very unlikely anyone else will be found alive."

Across San Francisco Bay in Oakland, crews searched round the clock for victims amid the tons of steel and concrete that had been the Nimitz Freeway.

"We have located several individuals, none of whom are alive, so there are no survivors at this point," Oakland police Capt. Jim Hahn said.

Earlier, rescuers freed a 6-year-old from a car by cutting through the body of his dead mother. The boy was in critical condition.

Seven bodies were recovered from the Nimitz, and police said at least 86 people were officially reported missing.

A remote-control backhoe was flown in by helicopter to dig out the rubble but couldn't begin operation until workers shored up the 1 1/4-mile stretch of collapsed roadway.

The Bay area's residents also earned praise. There were few reports of looting or other crimes.

Many people appeared unruffled by the quake, and there were pictures of unexpected serenity: joggers loping through Golden Gate Park, sunbathers enjoying warm weather at the park's band shell. But the band shell was badly damaged.