15 LDS homes destroyed in quake

A major earthquake that rumbled through Los Angeles, Calif., Jan. 17 destroyed an estimated 15 homes of members, severely damaged many other members' homes, damaged many Church buildings and left hundreds of Latter-day Saints seeking shelter.

As of Jan. 19, more than 40 were reported killed from the temblor, which struck at 4:31 a.m. (PST), registering 6.6 on the Richter scale. Two LDS-related deaths were reported by local Church officials.Bert Krell, whose wife, Susan, is a member of the Los Angeles California Van Nuys Stake, was killed in a car accident shortly after the earthquake. According to local Church officials, fatalities from car accidents are included in the earthquake death toll because electricity fails, stopping traffic lights from functioning.

The second LDS-related death was Lionel Antonio Ventura, a 21-year-old member of the Burbank 5th Ward, San Fernando California (Spanish) Stake, who, because of a recent car accident, had been attached to a life support system and was recovering at home. When the earthquake struck, the electricity failed, and his life support stopped functioning, said Elder Tad Callister, regional representative in the San Fernando and Simi Valley regions, which sustained heavy damage.

Many other members of the Church in the affected areas sustained minor injuries. All missionaries serving in Southern California are reported safe. The Los Angeles Temple received minor damage. (Please box on this page.)

Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy and president of the North America West Area, and possibly another member of the area presidency, were scheduled to visit the stricken areas from Jan. 20 or 21 through Jan. 23.

Speaking with the Church News about the disaster, Elder Groberg said: "How tremendously impressed I am with the strength of the local leaders and the resiliency of the people. The strength of the people there is underestimated by most people. They'll come out of this with more strength than before, and they are helping one another. That's so pleasing to me."

Elder Callister said: "We're still assessing the damage and still trying to assess how many really need to find permanent lodging."

The most severely stricken stakes, according to early estimates, are the Los Angeles Canoga Park, Los Angeles North Hollywood, Los Angeles Van Nuys, San Fernando, Valencia, Santa Clarita, and Simi Valley stakes.

Don Moberly, president of the Simi Valley Stake, the headquarters of which is about three miles from the epicenter in Northridge in the San Fernando Valley, said from four to five homes have been destroyed in his stake, and that once damage assessments are completed that number will most likely rise to 15 to 20.

In addition, approximately five homes of members of the Los Angeles California North Hollywood Stake were destroyed, and at least four in the Los Angeles Van Nuys stake.

Local Church officials report that homes damaged or destroyed include houses, trailers and apartments.

Other affected regions included the Los Angeles, Thousand Oaks and Santa Barbara regions, where homes of many members were severely damaged. Within the stricken areas, at least 300-400 Latter-day Saints were unable to return to their homes until damages could be assessed.

Some 400 people, LDS and non-LDS alike, found shelter in LDS meetinghouses, in tents on a baseball field adjacent to a meetinghouse, and with members. Elder Groberg said that a majority of those people most likely will be able to return soon to their homes, but about 100 "are truly without homes."

Church officials reported that the Canoga Park and the Valencia stake centers received substantial structural damage. The Santa Monica stake center has minor damage, as does the Hollywood ward meetinghouse and an Anaheim meetinghouse. Also, the Chatsworth, the Santa Monica 2nd and the Northridge ward meetinghouses received severe damage. In addition, the Glendale LDS meetinghouse had some broken light fixtures.

Barbara Myler, director of public affairs for the San Fernando region and a member of the Valencia stake, said: "Our stake center is just 3 years old, and we had just done some repairs to it. As a result of the earthquake, the stake president's office has shifted about 4 inches off its foundation.

"The family history center in the Valencia stake center is a mess. The computers and files fell to the floor."

Keith Atkinson, director of California Public Affairs, added, "The family history center at Temple Hill [where the Los Angeles Temple is locatedT has film canisters and files all over the floor."

Despite the devastation, Church officials report the willingness of members to reach out to others - regardless of religion. "The members are supportive of one another; they are extremely compassionate and sensitive to the needs of others," Elder Callister said. "The stake presidents have been fantastic in going to their areas and personally assessing the needs, meeting with bishops and getting reports."

The immediate challenges in assessing these needs, he said, were providing shelter for displaced people and providing food and water. For the first nights after the earthquake, a baseball field adjacent to the Van Nuys stake center became a location where shelter was provided. About 250 members - a majority being from the San Fernando stake, which uses the Van Nuys facilities for Church meetings, and about 50 non-LDS - camped out in tents on the field.

The North Hollywood stake provided breakfast for people on the field on Jan. 18. Other meals and supplies are being provided by the bishops' storehouse located in nearby Colton, Calif.

Sister Myler added that about 40 displaced members of the Valencia stake were taken in by other members whose homes were not as severely damaged. "Those who could help, did," she said.

In addition, about 85 people are being sheltered at the Receda Ward meetinghouse in the Canoga Park stake.

Many reached out to others despite the trauma of the disaster, said Church officials.

The earthquake, said Brother Atkinson, has left 15,000 Southern Californians homeless, 85,000 without electricity, and from 50,000 to 100,000 without water. Because of the interdependent western power grid, according to the Associated Press, blackouts occurred as far away as Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Washington. - Julie A. Dockstader

(Additional information)

Temple sustains minor damage

The Los Angeles Temple sustained minor damage during the earthquake that rocked the Los Angeles area Jan. 17. Keith Atkinson, director of California Public Affairs, said metal in the temple's tower was warped during the temblor, four windows on the third floor were broken and several crystal lamps were broken.

The temple, dedicated in 1956 and located in Westwood in suburban Los Angeles, is approximately 30 miles southwest from the epicenter of the earthquake at Northridge in the San Fernando Valley.

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