- Magnitude 8.2 earthquake hits off Mexico
- Tsunami waves of 3.3 feet measured
- At least 58 dead, including two children
- Frightened Mexico City residents gather in streets
- Blackouts in capital
The strongest earthquake to hit Mexico for decades left at least 58 dead and hundreds injured on Friday, after wreaking destruction on the country’s impoverished south and triggering tsunami alerts around the region.
Rescue workers were struggling to reach isolated rural communities across the worst-hit states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, many of them tucked high in rugged mountains.
The powerful quake damaged buildings as far away as Mexico City, where the iconic Angel of Independence swayed on its column and millions ran out of their homes amid intense tremors in the middle of the night.
It was also felt in much of Guatemala, where damage to buildings was reported.
Enrique Peña Nieto, the Mexican president, said the quake had registered a magnitude of 8.2, the strongest the country had suffered in more than a century; the US Geological Survey put it at 8.1.
Mr Peña Nieto reported more than 260 aftershocks up to a magnitude of 6.1, and warned there could be more to come, urging people to stay safe and listen to public announcements.
He said the quake was felt by around 50 million of Mexico’s roughly 120 million population.
Schools were closed in 11 states so officials could inspect the buildings for structural damage.
The head of the country’s disaster response agency, Luis Felipe Puente, said 45 people were killed in Oaxaca, 10 in Chiapas and three in Tabasco.
Seven people were also confirmed dead in Chiapas, while the governor of Tabasco said two children had been killed there. One of them was a baby on life support in hospital, who died when the power to the machine failed.
Almost two million people were left without electricity across the country, with up to 200,000 remaining under blackout on Friday night.
In Juchitan, parts of the town hall, a hotel, a bar and other buildings were reduced to rubble.
The indigenous town has attracted international intention for its traditional embrace of the third gender, with transgenders known as muxes occupying a prominent place in Zapotec communities.
Tsunami waves up to three feet high buffeted the southern coast of Mexico, while alerts were issued for the Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Honduras, and as far south as Ecuador.
The alert caused Ecuador to issue an evacuation order for the coasts of the Galapagos Islands; however this was later called off.
Guillermo Rosas, a civil protection officer in the Chiapas state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez, said the quake was the strongest he had ever felt.
He told the Telegraph that it was the poorest who had been most affected, with flimsily constructed homes being razed to the ground. Mountain roads were lined with fallen rocks – volunteers were trying to push them out of the way with their bare hands to allow vehicles to pass through.
Chiapas and Oaxaca are the two poorest states in Mexico, with around three-quarters of their populations living in poverty. In Tonalá, Chiapas, one of the hardest hit towns in the area, Samadeni Montero described how her house started to shake late on Thursday night.
“I was inside the house in bed when I began to feel the movement. I thought it would pass quickly, but it grew stronger and stronger. So the first thing I did was to grab my daughter,” she told the news agency EFE.
“All the wires began to swing, the electricity cut out and the sky turned a horrible red colour.”
Like many, she spent the rest of the night sleeping on the ground outside her home, her family too terrified to go back inside.
In Mexico City, tower blocks swayed and lights went out in much of the capital as residents abandoned their homes in their pajamas.
Carlin Crowder, a US expat living in a 28-storey high rise in the east of the city, told CNN: “The building was definitely rocking, me and my neighbours immediately started going down the stairs, there were parents with babies … it was not my first earthquake in a tall building but definitely a scary one.
“As I was going down the stairs I was gripping the handlebars because it almost felt as if I had had a bunch of alcoholic drinks, which I hadn’t, but you just don’t have a sure footing and you don’t know what’s going on.”
The US Geological Survey said the quake had its epicenter in the Pacific Ocean, 54 miles (87 km) southwest of the town of Pijijiapan in the impoverished southern state of Chiapas, at a depth of 43 miles.
Mexico regularly experiences tremors but this was the country’s most powerful seismic event since at least 1985, when a devastating 8.0 earthquake killed around 5,000 people in Mexico City.
An 7.9 magnitude earthquake in 1957 claimed the lives of dozens and toppled the city’s landmark monument, the Angel of Independence, its fall seen as symbolic of the nation’s tragedy.
Mexico and Guatemala are waking up today to widespread damage and dozens of deaths after an earthquake measuring 8.2 on the Richter scale hit their Pacific coastline in the early hours of this morning. The quake, which was the strongest in a century, was felt 450 miles away in Mexico City, where buildings were damaged.
These are the key facts:
32 people have died and over 200 people have been injured across Mexico.
At least three children are reported among the dead, including a baby who died after his life support machine lost power when a hospital suffered a power outage.
In Oaxaca, 17 people have died, including ten in the town of Juchitán, where over 100 buildings have collapsed. Deaths were also reported in the states of Chiapas and Tabasco.
Schools have been closed across the country so that inspectors can assess the damage.
Tsunami warnings were in place along the Pacific coastline and some places have been evacuated as a precaution, but most alerts have now been lifted.
In Veracruz, on the Gulf of Mexico, residents who have suffered damage caused by the earthquake, are bracing themselves for storm Jose and storm Katia.
All airports in Mexico are functioning without problems today, and all public transport in the capital is also working without interruption.
President Enrique Peña Nieto offered his condolences to the families affected and said that 50 million people across the country had felt the tremor.
In Guatemala, there has been damage to buildings and infrastructure, and a handful of injuries in the San Marcos area. No-one has been reported killed.
The Foreign Office have said: “We are in touch with local authorities and stand ready to support any British people affected.”
President Peña Nieto speaks to the nation again
President Peña Nieto has been back on twitter, sending his gratitude to other nations and assuring the Mexican people that he will do all he can to help them. In a series of tweets he said:
“According to the latest reports, more than 30 people lost their lives and over 200 were injured in the earthquake.
“Chiapas and Oaxaca are the states most heavily affected. At the moment there have been over 260 aftershocks, the strongest being 6.1 (on the Richter scale).
“The Police, Navy, Civil Protection Agency and Defence teams, as well as everyone in the Mexican government is taking action to help the people.
“The CFE (Mexican electricity commission) reported 1.85 million people affected and now 90% of them have power again.
“Major transportation systems, including airports and ports are working normally and we are making assessments about the motorway network.
“In the name of all Mexicans, I appreciate the show of solidarity and support that we have received from leaders and their nations.”