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Quake shakes buildings, nerves in southern California

LOS ANGELES ­­— A powerful earthquake southeast of Tijuana shook Southern California on Sunday afternoon, damaging buildings in border towns and rattling a seismically-sophisticated population as far north as Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas as chandeliers swayed, homes shook and the earth seemed to slide under the feet of people emerging from Easter church services for well over a minute.

The 7.2 quake struck just after at 3:30 p.m. local time, and was centered 16 miles southwest of Guadalupe Victoria in Baja California, Mexico, and about 108 miles southeast of Tijuana, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Reports from the remote area in Mexico where the quake hit were slow in coming and Mexican Web sites were overloaded in the two hours following the shaking. But an earthquake of that size would probably cause major property damage and perhaps injuries to anyone near its epicenter, experts said.

On the U.S. side of the border, the shaking was particularly acute in San Diego, where the it set off alarms and sent the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department responding to several calls, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Sales of U.S. homes rose

significantly in February

The wobbly housing market showed a rare sign of strength in February: pending home sales were up significantly, a report released on Monday said, suggesting that Americans took advantage of a tax credit for home buyers. Sales rose 8.2 percent, the National Association of Realtors said.

Economists said the data released on Monday suggested that buyers were re-entering the market as the expiration deadline approached for a government tax credit. Qualified home buyers have until April 30 to take advantage of a tax credit of up to $8,000. The credit drove up sales rapidly in the fall, when it was originally set to expire, but it has been slow to propel the market this spring.

An influx of foreclosed homes, which are often offered at bargain prices, has added another reason for prospective home buyers to enter the market. The agents’ association said it expected the upward trend to continue in the March data.

With hope dwindling, 115

Chinese miners are saved

From the start, China’s latest coal mine disaster seemed likely to end as so many others had in a country where an average of seven miners die every day: a failed rescue effort, grieving relatives, few if any survivors.

But then, more than a week after the half-built Wangjialing mine in northern China was flooded with millions of gallons of water, rescuers heard taps on a metal pipe. They furiously pumped water out of the shaft and sent glucose injections down through a pipe. By late Monday, rescuers had dragged 115 men up to safety, though 38 others remained missing.

Survivors said they had strapped themselves to shaft walls with their belts so they would not drown, hung there for days, then jumped into a mine cart that floated by. Others said they ate bark from the pine pillars used to construct the mine.

By any standard in the dangerous world of mining — and certainly by those of China’s especially deadly industry — it was a marvel of good fortune.

David Feickert, a coal mine safety adviser to the Chinese government, told The Associated Press, “This is probably one of the most amazing rescues in the history of mining anywhere.”