Orange County earthquake: Damage estimates rise; officials ask for aid

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Orange County sustained about $10.8 million in public property damage after a 5.1 earthquake shook the region on March 28, according to the latest estimates.

On Tuesday, the O.C. Board of Supervisors officially declared the earthquake a local emergency, and asked Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency in the county. That declaration could open the door for federal aid, if federal damage surveyors agree with the estimate.

Related: 5.1 earthquake strikes near La Habra, Calif. (updated)

The initial damage estimates for the quake were considerably smaller. Last week, the three cities closest to the epicenter – La Habra, Fullerton, and Brea – totaled their damage to public and private property at about $2.6 million.

Much of the bump came from issues on the campus of California State University-Fullerton, which reported $6.5 million in damage. The school's initial tally was about $500,000.

"Our initial assessment of the bulk of the campus damage that we inventoried involved furniture that had been broken or fallen, some glass cracked, and largely some aesthetic (damage)," said Chris Bugbee, director of media relations for Cal State-Fullerton. 

Then they took a closer look at the ceilings on the top three floors of the campus library, which remain closed. The damaged is to the drop ceilings which conceal ducts above the rooms on those three floors.

"The replacement of those ceilings completely would, we estimate, run around $6 million," Bugbee said. 

That's the estimated cost of restoring the library to its pre-earthquake condition. There are other options. A patch job on the ceilings would leave aesthetic issues. Or the university could simply leave the ceilings with exposed ducts. One of those alternative options is likely if federal aid doesn't come through, Bugbee said.

Raymond Cheung, the assistant emergency manager at the O.C. Sheriff's Department Emergency Management Division, said officials hope the governor and federal authorities will come through.

The initial federal damage assessment teams will likely arrive next week and help determine whether intervention is warranted.

"Once they make their verification of all the different sites with damage and the response cost, we should find out hopefully soon after that," Cheung said.

Other than Cal State-Fullerton, the Brea-Olinda Unified School District was second in damage, with an estimated $2 million. The county also tallied an estimated $1.75 million in damage to private property.

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