The 8.1-magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico's southwestern coast Thursday night has caused some building damage to Palo Alto's sister city, Oaxaca, though early reports indicate that the havoc was more extensive in the nearby isthmus region.
Bob Wenzlau, president of Palo Alto's Neighbors Abroad program, has been in touch this morning with the Oaxaca City Fire Chief Manuel Maza, who is also the director of civil defense for the State of Oaxaca. According to Maza, the earthquake caused damage to a few houses in the older part of the city. But Maza also indicated that there appear to have been casualties in the isthmus area, which is located in and around the eastern part of the state.
While early indications out of Oaxaca City are encouraging, Wenzlau said it's hard to gauge the extent of the damage in the isthmus area because there is little communication coming out of that area at this time.
"Within our network in Oaxaca, the families are fine and the structures are fine," Wenzlau told the Weekly. "The chief is looking at the (earthquake damage) as a fire chief would – to respond to where there is structural damage.
"He said it was limited in the city, but he is also focused now on the isthmus area."
Wenzlau said he is reaching out to Palo Alto's Fire Chief Eric Nickel to see if it would be possible to provide mutual aid to the areas where there was structural damage.
Christopher Lockwood, who runs Palo Alto's student exchange with Oaxaca City, also sent an email Friday morning to confirm that everyone in the group is fine, though he noted that "some buildings and hotels nearer to the coast have collapsed and some schools and hospitals are damaged."
Lockwood wrote that the earthquake was a "big shock because everyone was in bed."
"Many of the local areas have received torrential rain during the last couple of days too, so they were also flooded as well as shaken," he wrote.
The school hosting the students was out Friday so that buildings can be checked for structural issues, he wrote, but people are hoping that everything would be back to normal by Monday.