Mexico was hit by an 8.1-magnitude earthquake off its southern Pacific coast late Thursday night, that killed at least 32 people and could be felt up to 1,000 kilometres away.
Reports from the U.S. Geological Survey the quake’s epicentre was near the Guatemalan border. This marks the strongest earthquake Mexico has faced since 1985, and one of the most powerful quakes the region has faced in its history.
The quake briefly cut power in an area where more than 1.8 million people live. Buildings were damaged and schools were closed across at least 11 states.
The U.S. Geological Survey recorded at least 20 aftershocks of magnitude 4 or greater within approximately five hours after the main quake, and the president warned that a major aftershock as large as magnitude 7.2 could occur.
Guillermo Lozano Leo, World Vision Mexico’s Humanitarian Emergency Affairs director, who is based in Mexico City, said, “This earthquake is one of the largest quakes we have ever felt. It struck at 11.49 p.m. [CT] and rattled much of the country despite being off the west coast. A tsunami warning has been issued with reports that waves could be as high as three metres.”
This is the largest earthquake to hit Mexico since a massive quake struck the region in 1985. It killed approximately 5,000 people, though this quake is actually reported to be slightly bigger. Reports also indicate that Friday’s tremor matched the force of a magnitude 8.1 quake that hit Mexico in June of 1932, roughly 500 kilometres west of Mexico City.
People in Mexico City, one of the world’s largest cities, ran out into the streets in pajamas and alarms sounded after the quake struck just before midnight. Helicopters flew overhead minutes later, apparently looking for damage to buildings in the city, which is built on a spongy, drained lake bed.
“I had never been anywhere where the earth moved so much. At first, I laughed, but when the lights went out, I didn’t know what to do,” said Luis Carlos Briceno, an architect, 31, who was visiting Mexico City. “I nearly fell over.”
Rodrigo Soberanes, who lives near the Chiapas state city of San Cristobal de la Casas, describes the tremors and the momentary power loss in his home to the Associated Press.
“The house moved like chewing gum and the light and internet went out momentarily,” Soberanes sand.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said waves of one metre 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 centre’s forecast said Ecuador, El Salvador, and Guatemala could see waves of a metre or less. No threat was posed to Hawaii or the South Pacific.
Mexican authorities said they were evacuating some residents from the coastal towns of Tonala and Puerto Madero because of the warning.
— With files from Reuters and the Associated Press.
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.