MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Turning now to the other natural disaster we're tracking this morning, the earthquake that hit Mexico overnight. This was a big one - magnitude 8.1. Mexico has now raised the death toll to 15. The quake hit off the coast of southern Mexico over on the Pacific side, which is about 650 miles from where we find Carlos Rodriguez. He is Mexico City bureau chief for Bloomberg. Carlos, good morning.
CARLOS RODRIGUEZ: Good morning, Mary Louise.
KELLY: Give us more detail on that part of Mexico near the epicenter.
RODRIGUEZ: Sure. First, let me give you an update on the death toll because I just hung up before connecting with you guys from a call with the Oaxaca governor.
RODRIGUEZ: And the death toll, he said, rose, putting the total to 26...
KELLY: Oh, dear.
RODRIGUEZ: ...At least right now. And, yes, right now it's still dark. So the expectation is that this death toll for those southern states is going to likely increase once the authorities reach some of these rural areas that are harder to reach.
KELLY: Yeah, areas that would be hard to reach in normal times. And I'm guessing phone lines and power and all kinds of infrastructure is down right now.
RODRIGUEZ: Exactly. So it's hard to know if there's been complete streets in some of these mountain towns that have been probably lost and if there's people injured or even dead.
KELLY: Carlos, where exactly were you when you realized an earthquake was unfolding in the middle of the night last night?
RODRIGUEZ: I was at my apartment in Mexico City. In Mexico City, there's a seismic alert that sounds and alarm before the quake hits. It's a sensor that, once it registers a quake in the coast, gets to the capital, which is in the center of the country, faster than the waves of the quake. So people have about 40 seconds to react, which usually means to try to find a safer place inside your place. And that's what I did.
KELLY: Do you have a place in your apartment where you go?
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. Usually in big buildings - I live on the 10th floor, so usually you try to keep what they call the triangle of life. So it's next to a column of the building and away from glasses or anything that can fall.
KELLY: Now, we spoke earlier this morning with a New York Times reporter in Mexico City. She said, as far as she could tell - and taking into account, as you said, it's still dark. This is early hours. But she said Mexico City appears to have survived relatively unscathed. No huge damage that she could report.
RODRIGUEZ: Exactly. And that's a perception, also, from the authorities in Mexico City. They've been flying with helicopters since the quake occurred. They've been checking with hospitals, with local police officers. And so far, they say the only thing they can report is broken glasses here and there, some walls that fell from empty lots. But nothing major.
KELLY: What about this tsunami alert that we are hearing about? Big waves may be triggered - certainly triggered by the earthquake - that may be leading to a tsunami off the West Coast?
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. Actually, the president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, was clear about this. It's not something that really worries the Mexican authorities, given the geology of the coast in that area. He said that what is a bigger worry for them is the potential over another earthquake that follows these one. That may be a strong 7.0.
KELLY: An aftershock you're talking about.
KELLY: All right. And you mentioned the president of Mexico, who also said this is the biggest quake Mexico has seen in a century. Put it in perspective for us.
RODRIGUEZ: Exactly. It's actually the biggest they have on record. Over, like, 110 years ago, they didn't have records. So it's probably more than a century, but they just don't have a way to compare.
KELLY: And what about for you? Have you lived through prior earthquakes there?
RODRIGUEZ: I have lived prior earthquakes. I was living not in Mexico City but nearby in 1985. And I have experienced in the past seven years since I moved to Mexico City from the States several earthquakes. And believe me, this was the strongest I have felt.
KELLY: Bloomberg Mexico City bureau chief Carlos Rodriguez updating us on the 8.1 magnitude quake that hit overnight. Carlos, thank you.
RODRIGUEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.