"Harmless" California quake registers 3.4 on Richter Scale, but kills 120 on Universal's "Earthquake" ride because it felt like 11.7 to them


HOLLYWOOD - Due to a tragic coincidence, a mild earthquake that struck Los Angeles today registering 3.4 on the Richter Scale claimed up to 120 lives and scores of additional injuries. A quake of this magnitude rarely causes injuries, but at the very moment the tremor struck shortly after 3 p.m., 162 people were riding the "Earthquake" thrill attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood, which simulates an authentic earthquake registering 8.3 on the Richter Scale. The combination of the real quake and the simulated quake created an 11.7 Richter Scale reading on the ride, the highest ever recorded. The previous high was 9.6 for the 1960 Chilean earthquake.

One teenage attendant said the disaster reminded him of the one that occurred at Universal's theme park in Florida "a long time ago" in 1999 when a tornado struck the "Twister" attraction.

Universal immediately established a relief plan. A teenage spokesgirl at the park explained that survivors will get free vouchers to visit Universal on another day of their choice.

Theme park experts are questioning Universal's unprecedented openness in providing details of the incident. Helen Palsgraf, Marketing Director at Disneyland, expained the Disney philosophy: "People don't like to hear bad news. Frankly, we've had much, more worse than this at Anaheim, but you'll never hear about it."

Elsewhere at Universal, most park visitors had no idea that an earthquake had even struck. When the bodies were being carried out, thousands of teenagers lined up to ride "Earthquake." The devastation ironically had given the dowager attaction, one of the park's oldest, much-needed cachet.