At least 119 killed after second huge quake hits Mexico
A magnitude 7.1 earthquake stunned central Mexico yesterday, killing at least 119 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.
Scores of buildings collapsed into mounds of rubble or were severely damaged in in densely populated parts of Mexico City and nearby states. Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said buildings collapsed at 44 places in the capital alone.
The quake is the deadliest in Mexico since a 1985 quake on the same date killed thousands. It came less than two weeks after another powerful quake left 90 dead in the country's south.
Mancera said at least 30 had died in Mexico City, and officials in Morelos, just to the south, said 54 had died there.
At least 26 others died in Puebla state, according to state disaster prevention chief Carlos Valdes.
Governor Alfredo del Mazo said at least nine had died in the State of Mexico, which also borders the capital.
Mancera said that 50 to 60 people were rescued alive by citizens and emergency workers.
At one site, reporters saw onlookers cheer as a woman was pulled from the rubble. Rescuers immediately called for silence so that they could listen for others who might be trapped.
The quake caused buildings to sway sickeningly in Mexico City and sent people throughout the city fleeing from homes and offices, and many people remained in the streets for hours.
Alarms blared and traffic stopped around the Angel of Independence monument on the iconic Reforma Avenue.
Electricity and cellphone service was interrupted in many areas and traffic was snarled as signal lights went dark.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.1 hit at 1:14 pm and it was centered near the Puebla state town of Raboso, 120km southeast of Mexico City.
Puebla Governor Tony Gali tweeted that there had been damaged buildings in the city of Cholula including collapsed church steeples.
Earlier in the day workplaces across the city held readiness drills on the anniversary of the 1985 quake, a magnitude 8.0 shake, which killed thousands of people and devastated large parts of Mexico City.
Local media broadcast video of whitecap waves churning the city's normally placid canals of Xochimilco as boats bobbed up and down.
Mexico City's international airport suspended operations and was checking facilities for any damage.
Much of Mexico City is built on former lakebed, and the soil can amplify the effects of earthquakes centered hundreds of miles away.
The new quake appears to be unrelated to the magnitude 8.1 temblor that hit on September 7 off Mexico's southern coast and which also was felt strongly in the capital.
US Geological Survey seismologist Paul Earle noted that the epicenters of the two quakes are 650km apart and most aftershocks are within 100 kilometers.
There have been 19 earthquakes of magnitude 6.5 or larger within 250km of Tuesday's quake in the past century, Earle said.
Earth usually has about 15 to 20 earthquakes this size or larger each year, Earle said.
Initial calculations show that more than 30 million people would have felt moderate shaking from Tuesday's quake.
The US Geological Survey predicts "significant casualty and damage are likely and the disaster is potentially widespread."