At least 32 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.
Mexico’s president says that the 8.1-magnitude earthquake is the biggest the country has seen in a century. A 1985 tremor flattened swathes of Mexico City and killed thousands.
Enrique Pena Nieto also said that major damage has been caused and that one million initially had been without power following the quake, but that electricity had been restored to 800,000 of them.
A number of buildings suffered severe damage in parts of southern Mexico. Some of the worst initial reports came from the town of Juchitan in Oaxaca state, where sections of the town hall, a hotel, a bar and other buildings were reduced to rubble.
Alejandro Murat, the state governor, said 23 deaths were registered in Oaxaca, 17 of them in Juchitan.
A spokesman for emergency services said seven people were also confirmed dead in the neighboring state of Chiapas. Earlier, the governor of Tabasco, Arturo Nunez, said two children had died in his state.
The US Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 8.1 and its epicenter was 165 kilometers (102 miles) west of Tapachula in southern Chiapas state not far from Guatemala. It had a depth of 35 kilometers (22 miles).
The quake triggered waves as high as 2.3 ft (0.7 m) in Mexico, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said. It said widespread, hazardous tsunami waves were possible within three hours. However, there was no tsunami threat for American Samoa and Hawaii, according to the US Tsunami Warning System.
As far as 14,000 km (8700 miles) away in the Philippines, the national disaster agency put the country’s entire eastern seaboard on alert. No forced evacuation was ordered, but residents were told to monitor emergency radio broadcasts.
In Mexico, some buildings were severely damaged in the south of the country, including a hotel where rescuers were searching to make sure nobody was trapped.
Windows were broken at Mexico City airport and power went out in several neighborhoods of the capital. The cornice of a hotel collapsed in the southern tourist city of Oaxaca, a witness said.
Houses were also toppled in Chiapas state, causing buildings to sway violently.
Chiapas Governor Manuel Velasco said two women died on San Cristobal when a house and a wall collapsed. He called on people living near the coast to leave their houses as a protective measure.
“There are damages in hospitals that have lost energy,” he said. “Homes, schools and hospitals have been damaged.”
The US Tsunami Warning System earlier suggested hazardous tsunami waves were possible on the Pacific coasts of several Central American countries. Waves were possible within the next three hours for Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and Ecuador, it said. There was no tsunami threat for the US West Coast.
USGS reported several aftershocks, all greater than 5 magnitudes.
Civil protection officials were checking for damage in Chiapas, but the quake was so powerful that frightened residents in Mexico City more than 1,000 kilometers (650 miles) away fled apartment buildings, often in their pajamas, and gathered in groups in the street.
Around midnight buildings swayed strongly for more than minute, loosening light fixtures from ceilings.
Helicopters crisscrossed the sky above Mexico Dity with spotlights. Some neighborhoods kept electricity while others remained in darkness.
In one central neighborhood in central Mexico, dozens of people stood outside after the quake, some wrapped in blankets against the cool night air. Children were crying.
Liliana Villa, 35, was in her apartment when the earthquake struck and she fled to the street in her pajamas.
“It felt horrible, and I thought, ‘this is going to fall.’”
Reports on social media suggested that green lightning was seen before the earthquake. Many reports were also quick to link the unfolding natural disaster to hurricane Harvey and Irma.