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2 Dead In Quake Around U.S.-Mexico Border

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2 Dead In Quake Around U.S.-Mexico Border

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2 Dead In Quake Around U.S.-Mexico Border

2 Dead In Quake Around U.S.-Mexico Border

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A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the Baja California peninsula of Mexico Sunday. It was one of the strongest to hit the region in decades. The quake was felt by millions of people on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Let's follow up now on the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck the Baja California peninsula of Mexico on Easter Sunday. It was one of the strongest earthquakes to hit that region in decades. The quake was felt by millions of people on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, as far north as Las Vegas, as far east as Phoenix.

It was also felt in San Diego, where Katie Orr of member station KPBS is following the story.

Hi, Katie.

KATIE ORR: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: I suppose we should begin by talking about Mexicali, Mexico, just south of the border, which is where the quake was most strongly felt.

ORR: That's right, and Mexican authorities there say several buildings have collapsed, including a parking garage. The electricity is out, which is making rescue efforts difficult. Communication lines were down for a time. There are also reports of numerous fires that broke out because gas lines ruptured and propane tanks split apart. Fire departments from Tijuana and Rosarito actually went to Mexicali to help fight those fires.

INSKEEP: Let's remember here, Mexicali, Mexico is actually - there's a sister city, right? Calexico, which is just on the California side of the border - how's the situation there?

ORR: Right. Calexico is just across the border. In fact, some people living in Calexico have family living in Mexicali. Apparently, downtown Calexico was damaged by the quake, so much so that the city has shut off access to downtown. The city council has declared a state of emergency, and the city manager says he expects downtown might be closed for quite a while. Only shop owners are being allowed in to see if their business has been damaged. And as I said, Calexico, many people there have family living in Mexicali, so the city's being affected in that way as well.

INSKEEP: How are things in San Diego?

ORR: Well, in San Diego, people generally described a lot of shaking - you know, water sloshing in pools, pictures falling from walls. There were some reports of water mains breaking. A Sheraton here had to be evacuated for a short time because their floors were cracked. But that was about as serious as it got. There were pockets of power outages.

You know, I was driving home from a family Easter lunch, so I actually didn't feel the quake. But my news director said her next-door neighbor ran outside screaming. So there was definitely a range of experiences. But people did say it's lasted longer than other quakes they've been in before. And in other cities, there was shaking as well, but no serious damage.

INSKEEP: This does raise a question, though, because this is a 7.2 magnitude quake, which is about the same as the earthquake that struck Haiti. And we're talking about a parking garage collapsing and some tragedy. But in the Haitian situation, we were talking about whole cities collapsing.

ORR: Well, I have to think that has to do with building codes. In California, you know, there are strict regulations that developers have to follow. I've heard people who've been in earthquakes, and they were in high-rises at the time, and say the building just sways back and forth here in California. So, you know, that has to have a lot to do with it.

I also heard from a seismologist who said that this quake was pretty shallow. It was just about six miles underneath the ground, so that meant that a lot more people felt the seismic waves, and that they traveled a lot further. So that explains why so many people were affected by the quake.

INSKEEP: Affected slightly, even though not as many people were affected seriously - some people were, but not as many.

ORR: Right.

INSKEEP: And is there any sense, Katie Orr, about whether there are some sections of Mexico where we're not getting the latest information, where there could have been some serious - more serious damage here?

ORR: Well, when we were reporting on this quake, it was hard to get information out of Mexicali. You know, it's a small town. It's sort of - it's the northernmost town in Baja California, and we just weren't hearing a lot from them. So I expect as the day goes on and more people arrive on the scene, we'll definitely be getting more information.

INSKEEP: Katie Orr is a reporter with member station KPBS in San Diego.

Thanks very much.

ORR: Thank you.

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