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Mexico hit by biggest quake in century, killing at least 30, authorities say

By Chris Siron • Updated Sep 8, 2017 at 1:33 PM

Mexico's civil defense chief says the death toll from the earthquake that hit off southern Mexico has risen to at least 30.

The magnitude 8.1 quake struck shortly before midnight Friday near the Guatemala border. Houses toppled and the quake produced tsunami waves and sent people running into the streets in panic.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported the earthquake's magnitude as 8.1, but President Enrique Pena Nieto says it was 8.2, making it the largest in Mexico in 100 years. He also said it was bigger than the one in 1985, when thousands were killed in four Mexican states.

"It was a large-scale earthquake," Pena Nieto said. "It had a bigger magnitude than the one Mexicans knew in 1985."

He said that 62 aftershocks followed the quake and it's possible one as strong as 7.2 could hit in the next 24 hours. Pena Nieto also said that serious damage had been caused and that 1 million customers initially had been without power following the quake, but that electricity had been restored to 800,000 of them.

The USGS said the quake struck at 11:49 p.m. Thursday local time and its epicenter was 102 miles west of Tapachula in Chiapas, not far from Guatemala. It had a depth of 43.31 miles.

The quake was so strong that it caused buildings to sway violently in Mexico's capital more than 650 miles away. Residents fled buildings, many in their pajamas, and gathered in frightened groups in the street. Some neighborhoods remained in darkness after electricity was knocked out.

"The house moved like chewing gum and the light and internet went out momentarily," said Rodrigo Soberanes, who lives near San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, a poor, largely indigenous state popular with tourists.

Chiapas Gov. Manuel Velasco said that three people were killed in San Cristobal, including two women who died when a house and a wall collapsed. He called on people living near the coast to leave their houses as a protective measure.

"There is damage to hospitals that have lost energy," he said. "Homes, schools and hospitals have been damaged."

Tabasco Gov. Arturo Nunez said two children had died in his state. One of them was killed when a wall collapsed, and the other was a baby who died in a children's hospital that lost electricity, cutting off the infant's ventilator.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says waves of 3.3 feet above the tide level were measured off Salina Cruz, Mexico. Smaller tsunami waves were observed on the coast or measured by ocean gauges in several other places. The center's forecast said Ecuador, El Salvador and Guatemala could see waves of a meter or less. No threat was posed to Hawaii and the western and South Pacific.

Civil Defense in Chiapas said on its Twitter account that its personnel were in the streets aiding people and warned residents to prepare for aftershocks.

In neighboring Guatemala, President Jimmy Morales spoke on national television to call for calm while emergency crews checked for damage.

"We have reports of some damage and the death of one person, even though we still don't have details," Morales said. He said the unconfirmed death occurred in San Marcos state near the border with Mexico.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist in California who works with the U.S. Geological Survey, said such as quake was to be expected.

"Off the west coast of Mexico is what's called the subduction zone, the Pacific Plate is moving under the Mexican peninsula," she said. "It's a very flat fault, so it's a place that has big earthquakes relatively often because of that."

"There's likely to be a small tsunami going to the southwest. It's not going to be coming up and affecting California or Hawaii," she said. "For tsunami generation, an 8 is relatively small."

Posted by Breaking News editor Chris Siron

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©2017 The Dallas Morning News

Visit The Dallas Morning News at www.dallasnews.com

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Magnitude-8.1 earthquake strikes off southern Mexico

Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar (TNS)

A major earthquake off the southern coast of Mexico killed at least 32 people late on Thursday authorities said, with the president saying it was the biggest in a century to hit the country.

The US Geological Survey reported the earthquake's magnitude as 8.1, but President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Friday it was 8.2, making it the largest in Mexico in 100 years. He also said it was bigger than the one in 1985 when thousands were killed in four Mexican states.

Its epicentre was 123km southwest of the town of Pijijiapan, at a depth of 70km, according to USGS.

"It was a large-scale earthquake," Pena Nieto said. "It had a bigger magnitude than the one Mexicans knew in 1985," when thousands were killed in four states in the country.

Some of the worst initial reports came from the town of Juchitan in Oaxaca state, where sections of the town hall, a hotel, a bar and other buildings were reduced to rubble

Alejandro Murat, the state governor, said 23 deaths were registered in Oaxaca, 17 of them in Juchitan.

Two children were also killed in Tabasco state.

Chiapas Governor Manuel Velasco said that three people were killed in San Cristobal, including two women who died when a house and a wall collapsed. He called on people living near the coast to leave their houses as a protective measure.

"There is damage to hospitals that have lost energy," he said.

"Homes, schools and hospitals have been damaged."

Pena Nieto said that serious damage had been caused and that one million people initially had been without power following the quake, but that electricity had been restored to 800,000 of them.

"The house moved like chewing gum, and the light and internet went out momentarily," said Rodrigo Soberanes, who lives near San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, a poor, largely indigenous state popular with tourists.

The civil defense in Chiapas said on its Twitter account that its personnel were in the streets aiding people and warned residents to prepare for aftershocks.

The quake was so powerful that frightened residents in Mexico's distant capital city fled apartment buildings, many in their pyjamas, and gathered in groups in the street.

"There have been half a dozen of magnitude five and four aftershocks reported already," Randy Baldwin, a geophysicist with US Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center, told Al Jazeera.

"There are possibilities that the aftershocks will probably continue for the next several months."

Tsunami measured

Tsunami waves have been measured off Mexico's Pacific coast; the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said waves of one metre above the tide level were measured off Salina Cruz.

It was also felt in much of Guatemala, which borders Chiapas.

Mexican officials ordered schools to remain closed on Friday in 10 states, including Mexico City so that officials could inspect for structural damage.

Al Jazeera's David Mercer, reporting from Mexico City, said there were helicopters hovering over the area monitoring the damage caused by the quake.

"There are not enough reports about the damage caused yet but as day light comes, I am sure they are going to get a better grasp on that information," he said.

Smaller tsunami waves were observed on the coast or measured by ocean gauges in several other places.

The centre's forecast said Ecuador, El Salvador and Guatemala could see waves of a meter or less.

No threat was posed to Hawaii and the western and South Pacific.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist in California who works with the US Geological Survey, said such quake was to be expected.

"Off the west coast of Mexico is what's called the subduction zone, the Pacific Plate is moving under the Mexican peninsula," she told Associated Press news agency.

"It's a very flat fault, so it's a place that has big earthquakes relatively often because of that."

"There's likely to be a small tsunami going to the southwest. It's not going to be coming up and affecting California or Hawaii," she said.

"For tsunami generation, an eight is relatively small."

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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©2017 Al Jazeera (Doha, Qatar)

Visit Al Jazeera (Doha, Qatar) at www.aljazeera.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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