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Double dose of woe strikes historic Seattle neighborhood

Quake follows on heels of Mardi Gras riot

SEATTLE, Washington -- Seattle's oldest neighborhood got a double dose of damage in just a few hours on Wednesday, beginning with a nasty clash between police and riotous revelers and ending with a rumbling earthquake that crumbled facades and shattered glass.

Shop windows in Pioneer Square were already broken late Tuesday and early Wednesday when hundreds of Mardi Gras partyers took their celebrations to an extreme.


Police used tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets to subdue the out-of-control party, which had degenerated into fist-fighting and bottle throwing.

One person was killed and dozens were injured in the melee.

The city eventually quieted from the overnight rioting -- and Mayor Paul Schell proclaimed there would be no more Mardi Gras parties -- but the calm was short lived. As Schell was about to step before the microphones at a news conference to talk about Mardi Gras, the 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck.

"I was about to go into that news conference and I knew right away what it was," Schell said. "And I made for the exit and walked down seven flight trying to keep my eye on the stair, which was moving up to a foot, foot and half."

Back at Pioneer Square, built on landfill above the remains of the original city -- destroyed by an 1889 fire -- bricks and glass from the historic district's charming red buildings littered the streets, looting damage indistinguishable from quake damage.

"Ours broke up high, so they were obviously from the earthquake," Dave Clavey, who works inside the Pioneer Square building on First Avenue, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Seattle's oldest standing restaurant, the Merchants' Cafe, lost windows to the looting and some of its facade to the earthquake. Owner Chuck Kurilla told the newspaper he thought the quake's rumbling was a large truck in the alley.

"Then (I) realized it wasn't a truck," he said. "I said, 'We're outta here.'"

Seattle, founded along Elliott Bay in the mid-1800s, lost 33 blocks of buildings in the 1889 fire, and rebuilt with the red brick charm for which Pioneer Square is now known. Ironically, the area lost a number of the original rebuilds during the 1949 earthquake -- a 7.0 magnitude tremor that killed eight people.

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Mardi Gras madness: Philly, Seattle turn violent
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Violence mars Mardi Gras parties in Austin, Seattle
February 25, 2001

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