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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Earthquake Hits California

Aired December 22, 2003 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: A .5 on the Richter scale, we are being told now. I thought it was 6.4, now 6.5. An earthquake rocking Southern California. We're just getting information in. As a matter of fact, I'm getting a number of e-mails from viewers in that area outside of Los Angeles, just north of San Francisco.
Going to bring Charles Feldman back in. Charles, you said you felt the earthquake...

(CROSSTALK)

PHILLIPS: Charles, it's Kyra.

CHARLES FELDMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kara?

PHILLIPS: Yep, you're with us. It's Kyra.

FELDMAN: Oh, Kyra, how are you?

(CROSSTALK)

PHILLIPS: That's OK. We've got things happening. We're getting a lot of calls, Charles, and also trying to get to you as soon as we can. I was just telling our viewers I'm starting to get a number of e-mails here saying they felt the earthquake, they felt their whole house shake, they've been through a lot of earthquakes, never felt one like this before.

I understand there's been a gentle rolling motion through downtown L.A. You said you felt it in the bureau. What else do you know at this point?

FELDMAN: Yes, well I can tell you now we were talking a little bit before about the possibility of damage would depend to some degree on how far down the earthquake was.

Now, preliminary report, this is not -- I'm looking at my sheet here. This has not been reviewed by a seismologist. It's a computer- generated projection. So this is subject to verification.

But apparently the depth of the earthquake was about five miles down, five miles beneath the surface. It occurred about seven miles northeast of San Simeon. That's where the famed Hearst Castle is, a big tourist attraction filled with many world treasures, and quite a museum. So it happened in that area, seven miles northeast of San Simeon at a depth of five miles. They're saying it was a 6.5 quake, which does have the potential for causing structural damage and property damage and even damage to people, depending upon where they are and what degree of strength they felt.

You mentioned the rolling sensation here in L.A. CNN where I am now is in Hollywood, not quite downtown L.A., but in Hollywood. And we certainly felt it because there was a short of shaking of the building but it was more like a gentle rolling, enough to make you feel dizzy for a few seconds.

I think everybody -- I'm now being told, by the way, while I'm talking to you, that they've evacuated Hearst Castle. I just mentioned that as being a prime tourist attraction. It has now been evacuated. We are told. I don't know if that means that it sustained any damage or if they are just doing the evacuation of tourists as a precaution.

But it would not be surprising, Kyra, that people would have felt it, especially close to the event. 6.5 is a, by any measure, formidable earthquake.

Now, in the desert area of California it is not unusual to have earthquakes at 6, 6.5. And you feel the effects and the coastal areas as a rolling sensation or a shaking sensation. But usually because it's in the desert there really isn't any damage to speak of.

This, though, occurred near the coastal region of California. It is an area that has a lot of, as I mentioned earlier, coastal communities, resort communities, tourist attractions, which is why we are told they are evacuating the Hearst Castle.

So we are getting calls into CNN here in Los Angeles from people in the region describing what they felt. And I presume, in a very short amount of time, we will start getting a much better picture on what degree of damage if any, there is, any injuries, if any, there might be -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Charles, let's try and put this in perspective. I grew up in L.a. You've been there obviously a long time. We have survived many of these earthquakes.

First of all, let's sort of bring folks in touch with that area and explain where it is along the beach. This is a popular resort area. The Hearst Castle is there. Especially this time of year a lot of people go there for the holidays.

FELDMAN: It's a very, as you know, it's a very lovely tourist area. If you want to take a long drive from Los Angeles up to San Francisco, you will encounter if you take the coastal route, San Simeon and the tourist attractions and Hearst Castle is foremost among them. It is filled with all kinds of treasures and artwork.

And the building itself from an architectural point of view, is magnificent. And at any given time, there could be literally hundreds of tourists there. So it is a very popular place. But besides the tourist communities as I mentioned and as you know, there are a lot of year-round communities. It is sort of prime real estate. If you're going to settle in California, if you have the bucks you might as well live near the ocean. This that is an area that is a very nice place to live. It is close by car to San Francisco. It is close by car to Los Angeles and San Diego. So you're kind of equidistant to the two so you get the best of all worlds.

6.5, as I said and as you know, is a formidable earthquake. The proof of that is down here in L.A., we certainly did feel it. And until we got the numbers in and we were able to pinpoint the location, it wasn't possible to tell whether we were dealing with a small earthquake here in Southern California or a big earthquake somewhere north or south of here.

Now we know, once again, it occurred seven miles northeast of San Simeon, north of L.A., south of San Francisco, about five miles beneath the surface of the Earth. And right now, the preliminary figures are 6.5.

You're looking now at a map. Looks like from space, of the California coastline. You can see there San Luis Obispo. That red star just northwest, it would be, of San Luis Obispo would be the spot where San Simeon and the spot about 7 miles northeast of there where this 6.5 earthquake occurred.

Now, as you know, also, Kyra, when you deal with earthquakes you also deal often with aftershocks. And there's a misconception that aftershocks are always less severe than the initial event approximately well that is not always the case. Sometimes the aftershocks can be as severe or more severe than the initial event.

So the other thing that I am sure geologists are looking at as well as health and safety officials in the area is whether or not there are going to be aftershocks or more events after this 6.5, because they could be, depending again on how far they are beneath the surface of the Earth and how strong they are, they, alone, can be the sort of significant problems depending upon where and when they occur.

Thus far, we have not felt any aftershocks here in L.A. But that may be meaningless, depending on what they're feeling in up in San Simeon.

PHILLIPS: We are getting a number of phone calls now. Charles Feldman there in our CNN l.a.'s bureau.

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