Los Angeles - A broken water main near the UCLA campus on Tuesday sent a geyser of water some 9m into the air, forcing the rescue of people trapped in underground parking garages and covering some of the best-known parts of campus in water, including the school's famed basketball arena.
The 75cm, 93-year-old pipe that broke under nearby Sunset Boulevard made a raging river of the street and sent millions of litres of water across the school's athletic facilities, including the famed floor of Pauley Pavilion, the neighbouring Wooden Centre and the Los Angeles Tennis Centre, and 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 $132m renovation that was completed in October 2012.
Fire-fighters, 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 spokesperson Brian Humphrey said.
Fire-fighters searched cars in the structures to make sure they had not missed anyone who was inside, Humphrey said. No injuries have been reported.
Workers walk down stairs to a parking structure as water cascades down. (Mike Meadows, AP)
The water pipe broke at about 03:30 and was expected to flow for some four hours before it could be safely shut off, department of water and power spokesperson Michele Vargas said.
The scene was one of chaos with students playing in the water, helicopters hovering overhead and fire and police swarming the scene, said Paul Phootrakul of the UCLA Alumni Association.
TV news reported that some students had pulled out body boards to attempt to ride the flowing water.
Phootrakul, who was in business attire for an evening event, took off his dress shoes, dress socks and rolled up his slacks in an attempt to wade to his car. Fire-fighters stopped him, saying the parking structure was not steady because of the weight of all the water.
"I was trying to move my car without getting wet so I'm presentable for this event", he said. "I definitely know that the cars on the bottom floor, my best bet, are gone or totalled. I don't have much hope for my car."