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World

More Than 30 Killed In Massive Earthquake In Southern Mexico

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Off the coast of Mexico late last night - an 8.2 magnitude earthquake. The southern state of Oaxaca was hardest hit.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Local government says at least 60 people are dead. That number is likely to rise.

SHAPIRO: Ariani (ph) lives in Oaxaca City. She described the damage to the region.

ARIANI: (Through interpreter) Various houses crumbled. In fact the village where my grandma lives had 20 houses that also crumbled. And in Juchitan, most of the municipal building was destroyed.

SIEGEL: The town of Juchitan is where much of the focus is now. Its hospital has collapsed. Eduardo Mendoza manages an aid organization, Direct Relief Mexico. He's in Mexico City. And he's trying to figure out how to get emergency supplies to Juchitan.

EDUARDO MENDOZA: Some of the roads - I mean it depends on the communities. The Juchitan region seems to be devastated, so I suspect that those roads are a little bit more complicated, especially considering that there's been a lot of rain over the last couple of days. And we have a hurricane about to hit in eastern Mexico this evening and early tomorrow morning.

SIEGEL: Juchitan is a city. It's on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca. Do you know it at all? Have you been there? What can you tell us about Juchitan?

MENDOZA: Well, Juchitan is on the southern coast of Oaxaca. It's located close to different resorts. However, it seems to be a working-class town. It's about 70,000 people, so it's relatively large. And it's - you know, most of the buildings were collapsed, and many of the residents, you know - they're going to be living in shelters.

SIEGEL: I've seen some video taken in Juchitan, and there seem to be a lot of corrugated metal roofs that have come off their buildings. There do appear to be some scenes of terrible devastation in the town.

MENDOZA: Yeah, that's correct. Mexico City, where it also affected, didn't really suffer much damage. But you know, Mexico City has had laws that have been able to create regulations that reinforce the buildings. Unfortunately these communities that are a little bit more rural don't actually have those regulations enforced as strictly, and then you have these results.

SIEGEL: What is your organization, Direct Relief Mexico - what's it trying to do now?

MENDOZA: Direct Relief garners medical donations and donations from the United States and within Mexico to provide medical assistance to groups that are providing health services. Especially now, we want to make sure that the facilities have enough resources to provide the services that they need.

SIEGEL: And what is the Mexican government doing at this stage?

MENDOZA: The Mexican government's doing an incredible job of coordinating different communities in different subregions. Much like FEMA, they've got a National Civil Protection Agency that coordinates locally. And so they do have a good communications mechanism. And we're actually in the process of connecting with them to make sure that they understand that we have adequate resources at our disposal that are ready to be mobilized.

SIEGEL: Now, Mr. Mendoza, as you said, this earthquake came as Mexico is preparing for Hurricane Katia, which is expected to make landfall in your country tomorrow. Does the quake complicate planning for the hurricane, or does planning for the hurricane complicate getting supplies to the earthquake-affected area?

MENDOZA: I think vice versa. This will be - obviously with more rain, it will be - it will complicate the logistics and the mobilization of resources throughout the country through mudslides and then heavy rains. So we hope that it doesn't affect the region. But I mean it's a large storm.

SIEGEL: Eduardo Mendoza, general manager of Direct Relief Mexico in Mexico City, thanks for talking with us today.

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