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Powerful Earthquake Rattles Southern Mexico


A powerful earthquake struck a huge swath of southern and central Mexico yesterday. At least five people were killed. The quake hit midmorning, and despite its punch in the wide area affected, damage was surprisingly moderate. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports from Mexico City.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: The quake was centered in the southern state of Oaxaca, near the Pacific coast resort of Huatulco.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: A supermarket worker in the beach town posted video to Twitter as he walked down the aisle strewn with items thrown from shelves and toppled display cases.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: It was really bad, he says. Landslides blocked a major highway, several building facades cracked, and walls toppled. The U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude at 7.4 and said the quake was felt by nearly 50 million people in eight Mexican states and Guatemala. In Mexico City, hundreds of miles away, seismic alarms went off more than a minute before the shaking started here.

SONIA RUBIO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: It gave us the perfect amount of time to get out into the street, said 32-year-old Sonia Rubio, who ran down the stairs from the fifth floor of her apartment building in the Condesa neighborhood. Her neighbor, 29-year-old Juan Pablo Sanchez, sprinted from the seventh floor.

JUAN PABLO SANCHEZ: Oh, and you could see the palm trees right there just waving back and forth. What really scared me was just hearing the buildings just crack.


KAHN: Helicopters swarmed over the area, surveying for damage. Mexico City's mayor says 32 buildings were affected. This same area was hit hard by a 7.1 quake nearly three years ago, which killed 248 people and toppled dozens of buildings. That quake's epicenter was close to the capital, leaving no time for the alarm system's warning.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: The manager at Rubio and Sanchez's apartment building gave the all-clear after an initial inspection. Everyone joked this was the most people they've seen in the streets in months. Mexico is still registering thousands of new coronavirus cases and hundreds of deaths daily.

RUBIO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Rubio said, for a while, we all forgot about keeping our distance from each other, as she put her mask on and headed back into her apartment to continue working from home.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn
Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on
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