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Hundreds Dead After Peru Earthquake

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

Hundreds of people have been killed and injured after a massive earthquake hit Peru yesterday. The 7.9 magnitude quake struck near the coast, hitting the city of Ica and Pisco particularly hard. Elsewhere, the earthquake produced landslides, generated a small tsunami, and shook the capital, Lima, for more than a minute. Joining us now is reporter Guillermo Galdos, who's on his way to Ica. Good morning.

Mr. GUILLERMO GALDOS (Reporter): Hi. Good morning over there.

YDSTIE: The quake hit shortly after 6:00 p.m. yesterday. Can you tell us what it felt like where you were?

Mr. GALDOS: Yes. It actually hit at around 6:40 in the afternoon and it felt pretty hard. I can say it's the hardest earthquake we've had since 1974, for sure. And let's remember that most of the population here in Peru lives on the coast, so obviously there was a tsunami alert so there was a widespread alarm.

YDSTIE: And it shook you relatively significantly where you were?

Mr. GALDOS: Yes, indeed. (Unintelligible) I would say nearly two minutes, and you know, it maintained the same intensity. And then of course we had a couple of tremors after that.

YDSTIE: You're driving now on the highway to Ica, as I understand it. Is that correct?

Mr. GALDOS: Yes. Yes. I'm driving now on the roads.

YDSTIE: And what are you seeing as you drive along?

Mr. GALDOS: You know, the roads are completely empty. The lights are off. And there's quite a lot of police cars. And we've seen a convoy of ambulances being escorted by the police cars heading south.

YDSTIE: Have you seen any significant damage so far?

Mr. GALDOS: Yes. I've seen some rocks on the main highway and some dents on the road as well. And I understand the road is blocked a few kilometers away from where I am, because of landslides. So the traffic is not flowing.

YDSTIE: And there are pictures of some of the devastation on TV as well?

Mr. GALDOS: Yes. Yes. I saw some pictures of the devastation of houses that had fallen down in the center of Lima, and you know, some people - alarm in the streets and stuff like that. But it's not only Ica. The city that has been hit. There's also the Port of Pisco, which - there was - as we know, there was a tsunami alarm. Pisco is one of the biggest ports of the country. Lots of people were being moved towards to high land. And I will say that we can also see some casualties in there, but (unintelligible) has been discarded now.

YDSTIE: So the threat from the tsunami appears to have ended?

Mr. GALDOS: Yes, it has. It has, indeed. A lot of time has gone since the earthquake started in the Pacific, so you know, experts believe that there's no chance a tsunami is going to hit the coast.

YDSTIE: I understand that state doctors have been on a national strike. How has that affected efforts to aid the victims of this earthquake?

Mr. GALDOS: Well, the doctors actually ended - they lifted the strike last night and they've offered to work. And at the moment the strike has been lifted and there's no signs that it's going to restart again.

YDSTIE: What about the government response? Do you have a sense of whether that's being effective and running smoothly?

Mr. GALDOS: We don't know yet. The president has spoken and he has asked for the population to be calm. He has ordered a couple of ministers to go down to the south to assess the situation. And as I mentioned before, I think at the moment there's not much information about what happened.

YDSTIE: Thank you very much.

Mr. GALDOS: You're welcome.

YDSTIE: Guillermo Galdos is a freelance reporter in Peru. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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John Ydstie has covered the economy, Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve at NPR for nearly three decades. Over the years, NPR has also employed Ydstie's reporting skills to cover major stories like the aftermath of Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He was a lead reporter in NPR's coverage of the global financial crisis and the Great Recession, as well as the network's coverage of President Trump's economic policies. Ydstie has also been a guest host on the NPR news programs Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Ydstie stepped back from full-time reporting in late 2018, but plans to continue to contribute to NPR through part-time assignments and work on special projects.
Guillermo Galdos