People in Baja fear new tremors

GUADALUPE VICTORIA, Mexico — Thousands of people camped in cars, soccer fields and vacant lots Tuesday as aftershocks from Easter Sunday's big earthquake kept them on edge.

About 25,000 people have been displaced by the 7.2 magnitude quake, most voluntarily, said Alfredo Escobedo, the civil protection chief for Baja California state. They are mainly in farming villages southwest of the city of Mexicali, near the epicenter.

"Right now, people are sleeping outside because they're afraid," Escobedo said. "They go to work at day and go home, but they don't want to spend the night inside."

He estimated 200 to 300 homes were destroyed in the quake that shook both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, but authorities did not have a precise count. Many of those homes filled with mud and water that seeped up from the ground, he said.

The death count remained at two: a 94-year-old man and an unidentified transient.

Some 700 aftershocks greater than magnitude-2.5 had been recorded since the quake Sunday. The largest in the sequence — a magnitude-5.7 — hit several hours after the main tremor. A magnitude-4. 7 shock hit early Tuesday, centered 30 miles south of Guadalupe Victoria.

The canal-laden region of farming villages cracked when the ground shook violently Sunday, spewing water through large crevices in the rich farm soil and cement floors.

That's how the Briseno family watched all seven of their homes sink to ruin on a single block, forcing them to sleep in their cars indefinitely.

"The earth just opened up, like a pencil goes across a sheet of paper, like a stripe goes across the floor," said Diona Garcia Briseno, the oldest of five siblings, who lost a home that she shared with her husband and their two children, 18 and 10.

Garcia Briseno, 38, saw the ground crack and cough up water as she waited out the quake outside her home. After the shaking, she went inside to find that her cement floor was gurgling muddy water from underground. It lasted about six hours.

"It didn't come out with lots of force, but it was constant," she said.

Asphalt buckled on streets all around the Briseno family's tiny farming village of Oaxaca, leaving gaps several feet wide. Dirt crevices that spouted water can be seen almost everywhere.