LOS ANGELES, July 17 -- Six months after the devastating Northridge earthquake, 20,000 dwellings in Los Angeles remain abandoned, mountains of debris are nearly as common as palm trees, and thousands of residents have suffered severe financial setbacks. And for those trying to forget the magnitude 6.8 temblor that rocked the city Jan. 17, Mother Nature delivered a jarring reminder -- a magnitude 3.4 aftershock that rolled across the San Fernando Valley Sunday morning. No injuries or damage was reported. Later in the day, tourists streamed by the symbolic epicenter of the quake, the collapsed Northridge Meadows apartment complex, where 16 people perished during the violent shaking. 'The earthquake aftermath is characterized in two phases,' said Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan. 'Response -- that time immediately after the disaster -- and recovery, which is everything from now on. In a sense, we've just begun the long road to recovery.' The recovery has been slow and painful. City officials say 20,089 dwellings have been abandoned, and almost 30,000 more are at risk. Some 86,383 structures were damaged. Nearly half of the 200,000 Southern California applicants for the main post-earthquake federal relief program have been turned down, and only about half of the 1 million pounds of debris left by the quake has been hauled away. A Los Angeles Times poll conducted last week found 84 percent of all residents of the San Fernando Valley, the hardest hit area, reporting some quake damage, and 30 percent saying they have suffered financial setbacks.
Most fractured freeways have been rebuilt, and Gov. Pete Wilson announced Sunday that the busy La Cienega Boulevard ramps to the Santa Monica Freeway will open Friday. 'The rebuilding of Los Angeles quake damaged facilities in the past six months is a testament to the resolve and resiliency of the people of Southern California,' he said. Although the federal goverment has pumped $12 billion in aid to stricken areas of Southern California, local and state officials are still pleading for more help. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has issued 376,693 checks, averaging $2,834 apiece, for emergency repairs. The agency has also agreed to pay $714 million for public facilities projects. The landmark Los Angeles Coliseum, site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics, has suffered between $50 million and $60 million in damage, but is expected to open in time for the Los Angeles Raiders and University of Southern California football games. Overall, the quake claimed more than 60 lives and caused an estimated $15 billion in damage, making it one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history. Survivors of the worst earthquakein Los Angeles history, meanwhile, continue to be haunted by the events that began at 4:31 a.m. on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. 'The noise was terrible, and the bed was shaking,' recalled Northridge Meadows apartment manager Pat Mekenski this week. 'I can be in bed and feel it shaking. But it's not shaking. It's just a dream.'