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Earthquake Hits Off Coast Of Mexico


The earthquake that hit off the coast of Mexico overnight is the biggest in that country in a century. That's according to Mexico's president. Now, the capital, Mexico City, appears to have been spared major damage in part because the epicenter was hundreds of miles south, closer to the border with Guatemala. So for a sense of the impact there, we go now to Nic Wirtz. He is a reporter based in Guatemala City. He joins us now via Skype. Nic Wirtz, good morning.

NIC WIRTZ, BYLINE: Good morning.

KELLY: What is the latest where you are?

WIRTZ: Compared to Mexico, Guatemala seems to have escaped fairly unscathed. We are based in the center of Guatemala, and most of the damage was towards the west. Initially, there was reports of at least one death in San Marcos, which is a department which borders Mexico. However, they seem to be walking that back and as yet, there are only two current people in hospitals suffering from injuries from the earthquake.

So in essence, Guatemala escaped somewhat unscathed compared to its neighbor.

KELLY: And does that include coastal areas? I mean, are you able to get a sense of how things may be playing closer to the ocean and closer to the epicenter?

WIRTZ: We live roughly about an hour away from the coast. There were tsunami warnings this morning, roughly about midnight. However, by 2:00 a.m., they had been canceled. So in terms of coastal areas, again, it seems to be fairly clear.

KELLY: Small piece of good news there. Let me ask you the question I'm asking everyone as we check in on what's happening in the region this morning, where were you and when did you realize that something big was happening?

WIRTZ: I was - I live just outside Antigua, which is roughly an hour away from Guatemala City. And I was out there listening to music videos and shaking...

KELLY: Oh, wow.

WIRTZ: ...Which isn't necessarily an uncommon experience in Guatemala. It's a volcanic country. There's about 35 volcanoes. We're quite used to numerous earthquakes. But after about 45 seconds, it was fairly clear this was not your average earthquake, which case it was probably time to wake the family up and get them out of the house.

KELLY: In a country that unfortunately is used to this, how capable is the government, how capable are authorities of dealing with the aftermath of an earthquake of this scale?

WIRTZ: The authorities are, as you said, well-experienced, well-versed in dealing with earthquakes. CONRED, which is the National Coordination for Disaster Reduction in Guatemala is fairly well-versed in and really quite capable of dealing with the immediate after effects of a natural disaster. The problem is...

KELLY: And what does that mean? I mean, what kind of infrastructure's in place?

WIRTZ: In terms of this, they have regional teams, which are immediately out to survey damage, to deal with any injured, to get people who may have lost their homes, of which there's somewhere in the region of 43 in the country at the moment, these work getting crisis centers set up. The crisis part of natural disasters is generally fairly well done with. The problems usually occur afterwards.

I think the best example of that is the El Cambray landslide, which is a couple of years ago. And the victims for that are still waiting for the house two years later.

KELLY: I'm very glad we're not seeing a repeat of that. That's Nic Wirtz, reporter in Guatemala City talking about the earthquake that hit overnight off the coast of Guatemala and Mexico. Nic Wirtz, thank you.

WIRTZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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