By and  on January 18, 1994

LOS ANGELES -- The devastating 6.6 magnitude earthquake here that claimed at least 24 lives Monday wreaked havoc on retailers, particularly at Northridge Fashion Center, which is close to the temblor's epicenter in the San Fernando Valley.

There were no casualty reports from retailers, though many of their stores were damaged -- some totally wrecked -- and never opened Monday. Among the worst hit was Bullock's in Northridge. The facade caved in, causing several floors to collapse to the first level. A spokeswoman said the unit is expected to be closed for repairs for months.

Robinsons-May, Sears, Best and Levitz also suffered severe damage in Northridge, where a three-level parking garage collapsed, trapping a street sweeper in his car for most of the day. Firefighters rescued him. West Side Pavillion, Santa Monica Place, Century City Shopping Center, and Beverly Center were shut down.

Bullock's in Sherman Oaks was also hit hard, incurring structural and water damage. A total of eight Bullock's -- including those in Woodland Hills, Thousand Oaks, Pasedena, Westwood, Century City and Beverly Center -- all remained closed Monday, due to water damage to merchandise and interiors.

Retailers dispatched store planning and construction teams to assess damages. For those stores able to reopen today, traffic is expected to be light because of transportation difficulties.

The earthquake was felt as far north as Bakersfield, as far east as Las Vegas and as far south as San Diego.

It knocked out electricity and phone service until late morning, caused gas lines to burst, set homes on fire and closed at least four major freeways, which had sections buckle under the force.

Many retailers were in New York for the National Retail Federation's annual convention when news of the quake spread. "It's a mess out there," said Arthur C. Martinez, chairman and ceo of Sears Merchandise Group, who was at the NRF. "At least four [Sears] stores have sustained significant structural damage. We don't know yet about the others." Sears has 27 stores in the region. Hollywood, North Hollywood, North Ridge and Santa Monica stores were among those damaged, but no one was hurt. Sears field construction people were on the scene, and "have it as well under control as can be expected six hours after the quake," Martinez added.

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