OS ANGELES (AP) — A broken water main near the UCLA campus Tuesday sent a geyser of water some 30 feet into the air, trapping people in underground parking garages and covering some of the best-known parts of campus in water, including the school’s famed basketball arena.
The 30-inch, 93-year-old pipe that broke under nearby Sunset Boulevard made a raging river of the street and sent millions of gallons of water across the school’s athletic facilities, including the famed floor of Pauley Pavilion the neighboring Wooden Center training facility, as well as a pair of parking structures that took the brunt of the damage.
The arena — where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Reggie Miller and Kevin Love starred and John Wooden coached for 10 years — recently underwent a $132 million renovation that was completed in October 2012. At least an inch of water covered the floor Tuesday night.
“It’s painful. It’s painful,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said at a news conference. “We just refurbished Pauley just a few years ago. And it’s a beautiful structure. It’s of course, a symbolic structure for this entire campus.”
Administrative Vice Chancellor Jack Powazek said the school may need to make contingency plans, but “luckily we’re not in the middle of basketball season.”
The water break came amid a severe drought in California, where under new regulations residents are subject to fines up to $500 a day for wasting water.
Firefighters, some using inflatable boats, saved at least five people who were stranded in the underground parking structures.
People saw the water and started rushing down the stairwells to rescue their cars, and authorities had to keep them out as water rose up to the wheel wells of vehicles, many of which were stranded, city fire spokesman Brian Humphrey said.
Firefighters have been searching cars in the structures to make sure nobody was still inside, Humphrey said. No injuries have been reported.
Beth Schoenborn, 49, and her daughter Kelly Schoenborn, 17, of Portland, Oregon, were on a campus tour that was brought to a halt when the water started flowing.
Their rental car was in one of the flooded parking structures. They got to it and started driving but couldn’t exit because a dip was blocked by water.