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At least 32 die after massive quake off southern Mexico

  • At least 32 people were killed after a massive 8.1 magnitude earthquake late Thursday.
  • The quake, one of the biggest recorded in Mexico, struck off the country's southern coast.
  • Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto said in a press conference that the quake was the biggest to strike the country in a hundred years.

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 Enrique Pena Nieto said in a press conference that the quake was the biggest to strike the country in a hundred years, larger even than a huge temblor that struck in 1985, killing thousands.

Chiapas Governor Manuel Velasco Coello said four people in his state had been reported to have died, including a child, adding that there had been 12 aftershocks. He advised people to evacuate their homes due to the tsunami warning.

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.

Waves

The quake triggered waves as high as 2.3 ft (0.7 m) in Mexico, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said. Mexican television showed images of the sea retreating about 50 meters, and authorities evacuated some coastal areas.

President Enrique Pena Nieto said the tsunami risk on the Chiapas coast was not major.

There was no tsunami threat for American Samoa and Hawaii, according to the U.S. Tsunami Warning System. The national disaster agency of the Philippines put the country's eastern seaboard on alert, but no evacuation was ordered.

People gather on a street in downtown Mexico City during an earthquake on September 7, 2017. An earthquake of magnitude 8.0 struck southern Mexico late Thursday and was felt as far away as Mexico City, the US Geological Survey said, issuing a tsunami warning.
PEDRO PARDO | AFP | Getty Images
People gather on a street in downtown Mexico City during an earthquake on September 7, 2017. An earthquake of magnitude 8.0 struck southern Mexico late Thursday and was felt as far away as Mexico City, the US Geological Survey said, issuing a tsunami warning.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said the 8.1 magnitude 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.

The USGS has reported at least five aftershocks so far, with magnitudes ranging from 4.9 to 5.7.

"It's a big quake. It's about 70 miles offshore, but it's not an unheard of quake," Randy Baldwin, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center, told NBC News in a phone interview, noting that the mid-American trench has producing a lot of big quakes in the past.

"Any time that you have a large quake like this, that is shallow, you can expect aftershocks to occur for even the next several months," he later told CNBC.

eople gather on a street in downtown Mexico City during an earthquake on September 7, 2017. An earthquake of magnitude 8.0 struck southern Mexico late Thursday and was felt as far away as Mexico City, the US Geological Survey said, issuing a tsunami warning.
PEDRO PARDO | AFP | Getty Images
eople gather on a street in downtown Mexico City during an earthquake on September 7, 2017. An earthquake of magnitude 8.0 struck southern Mexico late Thursday and was felt as far away as Mexico City, the US Geological Survey said, issuing a tsunami warning.

Reuters reported that people in the capital Mexico City ran into the streets after the quake, adding later that parts of the city were without power. Mexico City is more than 500 miles from the quake's epicenter.

The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said that the quake was also felt in Belize and Guatemala. It estimated that the population in the "felt area" was around 90 million people.

Classes were suspended in schools in Mexico City, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Puebla, Tiaxcala, Guerrero and Edomex to review the infrastructure, Mexico's Secretary of Public Education Aurelio Nuno said via Twitter.

In a preliminary report, the National Institute of Anthropology and History said there didn't appear to be any damage to archaeological areas.

Mexico's Secretary of Communications and Transportation Gerardo Ruiz Esparza said that national airports were in operating condition.

Pena Nieto said that operations at the Salina Cruz refinery were suspended temporarily as a precaution, Reuters reported.

Reuters contributed to this report.