Strong Earthquake Hits Off Mexico’s Coast – New York Times

MEXICO CITY — A powerful earthquake struck off the coast of Mexico late Thursday, shaking buildings as far away as Mexico City and sending worried residents fleeing into the streets. At least two deaths were reported in the immediate aftermath of the quake.

The quake had a magnitude of 8.1 and struck about 60 miles southwest of Pijijiapan, off the coast of Chiapas State, near the border with Guatemala.

The quake was felt in the capital, Mexico City, and more than 600 miles from the epicenter, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center said.

Mexico City’s earthquake alarm sounded, sending people running into the streets, many of them in nightclothes, looking up nervously at shaking trees and swaying powerlines.

Zhaira Franco, 35, who works for Facebook in social programming, said she heard an alarm 30 seconds before the earthquake hit her building in Mexico City. The building shook so much it hit the adjacent building, she said.

The quake also rocked the city’s landmark Angel of Independence monument.

A glass door shattered at the Mexico City airport and there were reports of tumbling walls. Helicopters circled over the city to assess damage but there were no immediate reports of casualities in the city. A hotel in the Pacific state of Oaxaca was evacuated. The ceiling of a shopping mall in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the Chiapas state capital, collapsed, littering the floor with debris.

Five aftershocks of magnitude 4.9 or stronger hit in the hour following the initial quake, the United States Geological Survey said.

The governor of Chiapas, Manuel Velasco, said that two women had been killed in the city of San Cristobal de las Casas by collapsing houses and walls.

Mexico City is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes that strike off the coast because the city is built atop an old lake bed that can magnify seismic waves from hundreds of miles away. In September 1985, an earthquake off the coast of Michoacan State killed as many as 10,000 people and flattened 400 buildings. That quake, which occurred more than 200 miles from the capital, was also measured as a magnitude 8.

In the wake of Thursday night’s quake, Guatemala’s president, Jimmy Morales, issued an appeal for calm.

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