One of the worst earthquakes to hit Mexico in a century has left dozens dead. Millions of people across the country felt the 8.2 magnitude quake, which hit off the southern coast near the border with Guatemala.
A powerful earthquake struck off Mexico’s east coast late on Thursday, toppling houses, government offices and businesses. It was felt as far north as Mexico City, which is around 800 kilometers (500 miles) from Pijijiapan, near the border with Guatemala. At least 35 people were killed and widespread power outages were reported across the country.
President Enrique Pena Nieto said that the 8.2 magnitude quake was “the strongest” since 1932, and was stronger than the 8.1 quake in 1985 which left thousands dead in Mexico City.
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Oaxaca state governor Alejandro Murat told local television that 17 of the deaths were recorded in the southeastern town of Juchitan. The death toll could rise, local officials said on Friday.
“There are houses that collapsed with people inside,” Luis Felipe Puente, the head of the emergency response agency, told TV news channel Milenio.
The US Geological Survey recorded at least 20 aftershocks of magnitude 4.0 or greater within about five hours of the main shake. Authorities reported dozens of aftershocks.
Southern border offshore
The quake’s epicenter was about 123 km (76 miles) south of the town of Pijijiapan in Chiapas, but the shock was felt 1,000 kilometers north in the capital Mexico City, sending residents fleeing swaying buildings and knocking out electricity. The quake was also felt in much of Guatemala, which borders Chiapas.
The quake occurred in a very seismically active region near the point of collision between three tectonic plates: the Cocos, the Caribbean and the North American. At least six other magnitude 7.0 or greater earthquakes have hit the area since 1900 – three of them within a nine-month period from 1902-1903.
Civil Defense officials wrote on Twitter that their personnel were patrolling the streets in Chiapas aiding residents and looking for damage.
Chiapas Governor Manuel Velasco told broadcaster Televisa some homes had been damaged and a shopping center had collapsed in the town of San Cristobal. Later, he confirmed that two women in San Cristobal had perished when a wall in their home crumbled.
“Homes, schools and hospitals have been affected,” Velasco said.
In Tabasco state, next to Chipas, Governor Arturo Nunez said two of the dead were small children who were residents of his state. One child was crushed by a falling wall while the other was an infant who perished when his ventilator stopped functioning after a power outage in a hospital.
There were also reports of bad damage in Oaxaca state, with buildings collapsed and reduced to rubble. Throughout all three southern states, rescue workers rushed to check for anyone trapped by the debris.
In neighboring Guatemala, President Jimmy Morales called for calm as emergency crews checked for damage.
ls,dj/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)