Saturday 21 October 2017

At least 58 die after massive earthquake off southern Mexico

Soldiers help children to get on a truck as residents are being evacuated from their coastal town after an earthquake struck off the southern coast, in Puerto Madero, Mexico September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jose Torres
Soldiers help children to get on a truck as residents are being evacuated from their coastal town after an earthquake struck off the southern coast, in Puerto Madero, Mexico September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jose Torres
People gather on a street in the Tlatelolco neigborhood of Mexico City during an earthquake / AFP PHOTO / PEDRO PARDOPEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images
A demonstrator stands amid tear gas during protests against Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto who arrived on an official visit, in Oaxaca, Mexico September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Luis Plata
People gather on a street after an earthquake hit Mexico City, Mexico, September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
People gather on a street after an earthquake hit Mexico City, Mexico late September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Claudia Daut
People gather on a street after an earthquake hit Mexico City, Mexico late September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Claudia Daut
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

At least 58 people were killed after a massive 8.1 magnitude earthquake, one of the biggest recorded in Mexico, struck off the country's southern coast late on Thursday, causing cracks in buildings and triggering a small tsunami, authorities said.

The quake, which hit minutes before midnight on Thursday, toppled hundreds of buildings, triggered tsunami evacuations and sent panicked people fleeing into the streets in the middle of the night.

In this geocolor image GOES-16 satellite image taken Thursday, Sep. 7, 2017, at 11:15 a.m. EDT, shows the eye Hurricane Irma, center, just north of the island of Hispaniola, with Hurricane Katia, left, in the Gulf of Mexico, and Hurricane Jose, right, in the Atlantic Ocean. The fearsome Category 5 storm cut a path of devastation across the northern Caribbean, leaving at least 10 dead and thousands homeless after destroying buildings and uprooting trees on a track Thursday that could lead to a catastrophic strike on Florida. (NOAA-NASA via AP)
In this geocolor image GOES-16 satellite image taken Thursday, Sep. 7, 2017, at 11:15 a.m. EDT, shows the eye Hurricane Irma, center, just north of the island of Hispaniola, with Hurricane Katia, left, in the Gulf of Mexico, and Hurricane Jose, right, in the Atlantic Ocean. The fearsome Category 5 storm cut a path of devastation across the northern Caribbean, leaving at least 10 dead and thousands homeless after destroying buildings and uprooting trees on a track Thursday that could lead to a catastrophic strike on Florida. (NOAA-NASA via AP)
Waves break over the sea wall ahead of Hurricane Katia in Veracruz, Mexico, September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Victor Yanez
A truck burns after it was set on fire during protests against Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto who arrived on an official visit, in Oaxaca, Mexico September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Luis Plata
Soldiers help children to get on a truck as residents are being evacuated from their coastal town after an earthquake struck off the southern coast, in Puerto Madero, Mexico September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jose Torres
A woman shouts slogans next to burning tires during protests against Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto who arrived on an official visit, in Oaxaca, Mexico September 7, 2017. The banner reads, "Pena (Nieto) Murderer, Out." REUTERS/Jorge Luis Plata NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
A demonstrator stands amid tear gas during protests against Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto who arrived on an official visit, in Oaxaca, Mexico September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Luis Plata
People gather on a street after an earthquake hit Mexico City, Mexico, September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
People gather on a street as they receive blankets after an earthquake hit Mexico City, Mexico, September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
People are seen in a bus as they are being evacuated from their coastal town after an earthquake struck off the southern coast, in Puerto Madero, Mexico September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jose Torres NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
Debris from a collapsed wall sits in Oaxaca, Mexico, after an earthquake early Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. A massive 8-magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of southern Mexico late Thursday night, causing buildings to sway violently and people to flee into the street in panic as far away as the capital city.(AP Photo/Luis Alberto Cruz)
People stand in line to register in a shelter after they were evacuated from their coastal town after an earthquake struck off the southern coast, in Tapachula, Mexico September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jose Torres NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

It was strong enough to cause buildings to sway violently in the capital city more than 650 miles (1,000 kilometres) away.

People still wearing pyjamas ran out of their homes and gathered in frightened groups.

Rodrigo Soberanes, who lives near San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, the state nearest the epicentre, said his house "moved like chewing gum".

The furious shaking created a second national emergency for Mexican agencies already bracing for Hurricane Katia on the other side of the country.

People gather on a street after an earthquake hit Mexico City, Mexico, September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
People gather on a street after an earthquake hit Mexico City, Mexico, September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

The system was expected to strike the Gulf coast in the state of Veracruz early on Saturday as a category two storm that could bring life-threatening floods.

The head of Mexico's civil defence agency confirmed the deaths of 45 people in the southern state of Oaxaca.

Another 10 people died in Chiapas and three more in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco.

The worst-hit city appeared to be Juchitan, on the narrow waist of Oaxaca known as the Isthmus.

Waves break over the sea wall ahead of Hurricane Katia in Veracruz, Mexico, September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Victor Yanez
Waves break over the sea wall ahead of Hurricane Katia in Veracruz, Mexico, September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Victor Yanez

About half of the city hall collapsed in a pile of rubble, and streets were littered with the debris of ruined houses.

Mexico's capital escaped major damage, but the quake terrified sleeping residents, many of whom still remember the catastrophic 1985 earthquake that killed thousands and devastated large parts of the city.

Families were jerked awake by the grating howl of the capital's seismic alarm.

Some shouted as they dashed out of rocking apartment buildings.

A truck burns after it was set on fire during protests against Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto who arrived on an official visit, in Oaxaca, Mexico September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Luis Plata
A truck burns after it was set on fire during protests against Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto who arrived on an official visit, in Oaxaca, Mexico September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Luis Plata

Even the famous Angel of Independence Monument swayed as the quake's waves rolled through the city's soft soil.

Elsewhere, the extent of destruction was still emerging.

Hundreds of buildings collapsed or were damaged, power was cut at least briefly to more than 1.8 million people and authorities closed schools on Friday in at least 11 states to check them for safety.

The earthquake's impact was blunted somewhat by the fact that it was centred 100 miles (160 kilometres) offshore.

It hit off Chiapas' Pacific coast, near the Guatemalan border with a magnitude of 8.1 - equal to Mexico's strongest quake of the past century.

It was slightly stronger than the 1985 quake, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The epicentre was in a seismic hotspot in the Pacific where one tectonic plate dives under another.

These subduction zones are responsible for producing some of the biggest quakes in history, including the 2011 Fukushima disaster and the 2004 Sumatra quake that spawned a deadly tsunami.

The quake struck at 11.49pm on Thursday (4.49am GMT on Friday), and its epicentre was 102 miles (165 kilometres) west of Tapachula in Chiapas.

It had a depth of 43.3 miles (69.7 kilometres), the USGS said.

Dozens of strong aftershocks rattled the region in the following hours.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said waves of 3.3 feet (1 metre) above the tide level were measured off Salina Cruz, Mexico.

Smaller tsunami waves were observed on the coast or measured by ocean gauges elsewhere.

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

Authorities briefly evacuated a few residents of coastal Tonala and Puerto Madero because of the warning.

In neighbouring Guatemala, President Jimmy Morales appeared on national television to call for calm while emergency crews surveyed damage.

Officials later said only four people had been injured and several dozen homes damaged.

Reuters

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