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Nina Quidit cleans up the Dollar Plus and Party Supplies Store in American Canyon, Calif., after the biggest earthquake to strike the region in 25 years wrought havoc early Sunday morning, rupturing gas and water lines, starting six fires and sending over 100 people to hospital for treatment. (Alex Washburn/AP)
Nina Quidit cleans up the Dollar Plus and Party Supplies Store in American Canyon, Calif., after the biggest earthquake to strike the region in 25 years wrought havoc early Sunday morning, rupturing gas and water lines, starting six fires and sending over 100 people to hospital for treatment. (Alex Washburn/AP)

California earthquake: ‘It was total mayhem’ Add to ...

California’s Napa Valley is normally an Edenic retreat famed for wine, fine dining and multimillion-dollar homes. Sunday’s earthquake threw much of the region into chaos, with falling glass and collapsing brick.

She called for her two children in the dark as the quake rumbled under the family’s home, throwing heavy pieces of furniture several metres and breaking them. Chris Malloy, 45, described the quake while inspecting the shattered glass at her husband’s store-front office in downtown Napa.

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“It was shaking and I was crawling on my hands and knees in the dark, looking for [my children],” she said, wearing flip flops on feet left bloodied from crawling through broken glass.

They had just enough time to gather their cats and vintage guitars before evacuation. A couple who lives in a mobile home park were jarred awake by a loud thump and roll.

“It was violent,” said Bob Castell-Blanch, 60, as he and his spouse, Lynda, tried to buy water at a store down the road from the mobile home. “Things were flying all over the place. There was a woman screaming from one of the houses, so loud. It was total mayhem.”

His home shook so violently that he kept getting knocked back into his bed as he tried to flee, said college student Eduardo Rivera.

“When I woke up, my mom was screaming and the sound from the earthquake was greater than my mom’s screams,” said Mr. Rivera, 20, who shares his home with six relatives.

The floors of many wine stores were stained red from wine spilled from broken bottles. One hard-hit building housing winery tasting rooms had to be closed to tourists.

Tyler Paradise, general manager of Cult 24 wine bar in Napa, estimated his business lost $50,000 (U.S.) worth of bottles. They were shaken out of their holding cabinets and littered the floor.

At the Ranch Market, the shelves were emptied into the aisles. The smell of wine wafted throughout.

Arik Housley, the store’s owner, estimated at least $100,000 in damage at the two markets he owns in the area. He said that, like many people, he did not carry earthquake insurance because of the high premium.

About 8,000 pairs of shoes were strewn on the ground of Clark’s Shoes outlet; they were soaked by water flowing from a broken main.

“Clearly we didn’t win,” said outlet manager Nick Brennan. “It’s over, we clean up, we try to build it a little stronger.”

His house was cracked and in danger of sliding down the hill, said Franz Oehler, 44, describing his home worth about $5-million, west of downtown Napa.

“It was about 10 seconds of total chaos,” he said. “My girlfriend and I were thrown up in the air and the window exploded.”

She was too terrified even to scream, said antique store owner Patricia Trimble, 50. “They say it went for 50 seconds. It felt like 50 minutes.”

She rushed to her store in central Napa and found the front window blown out, cabinets on their sides and merchandise all over the floor.

Sources: The New York Times, Associated Press, Reuters

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