Athletics: Earthquake was like a 'firework display': British runners recount the moment when devastation struck Los Angeles. Mike Rowbottom reports

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The Independent Online
THREE of Britain's leading athletes have decided to stay on at their training base in Los Angeles

despite their terrifying experience in the earthquake which struck the city in the early hours of Monday morning.

John Regis, Tony Jarrett and Gary Cadogan are living in Sherman Oaks, less than 10 miles from the epicentre of the disturbance which has left 42 people dead.

When phone lines were restored to the area, they described how they had woken in darkness and confusion as the hillside house which they share was caught up in a quake which registered 6.6 on the Richter scale and was felt 275 miles away in Las Vegas.

'It went on for about 45 seconds,' Jarrett, the world 110 metres silver medallist, said. 'Everything was moving. It was really scary.'

The first reaction of Cadogan, Britain's leading 400m hurdler, was that a bomb had gone off. 'It was like someone picking up the house and shaking it. I stayed frozen in my bed. When it stopped there was silence. None of us screamed or shouted. We were all too scared to say anything.

'We went into the living room which has a view right over LA.

Everything was pitch black, which made it even more scary. We saw fires, and then something blew up and it was like a firework display.

'We just stood there talking, not knowing what was going on. After a while we put on our trainers and ran out to the car.

'When we went out it was still dark, but one of the neighbours lent us a flashlight. We stayed awake for the rest of the day because we were too scared to go to sleep. We didn't have anything to eat for 12 to 15 hours. The power came back on, but we couldn't have water at first because the fire service needed the water pressure. Then we could only drink water that we had boiled.

'Two people got killed about a mile down the road from us when their house just slid off the mountain. There is a place called Van Nuys about a mile away which is devastated. There are walls hanging off everywhere, and shop windows broken. It's like a war zone.

'We have had a few aftershocks. Since the major one, I have heard there have been about 200. They are all around 5.5 on the scale, but they are saying that the worst is over.'

The trio resumed training

yesterday at the University of Southern California where they are working with John Smith, who also coaches Quincy Watts and Kevin Young, Olympic champions at 400m and 400m hurdles respectively.

The warm weather and top-class company provide strong motivating forces to remain. 'We want to stay,' Cadogan said. 'But we have agreed with one another that if there is

another earthquake at number seven or eight on the scale, we will come home.'

It is a deeply worrying predicament for the trio. 'The house has windows everywhere,' Jarrett said. The British Athletic Federation, which is funding the five-month stay, has cause to be gravely concerned.