Weather & Natural Disasters

Major quake hits southern Mexico, triggers local Pacific tsunami

Key Points
  • A powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.4 struck the coast of southern Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least one person, buckling paved roads, and setting off a tsunami in nearby Pacific coastal areas.
  • One person died in the state of Oaxaca, Governor Alejandro Murat said, after the quake hit the Pacific coastal state mid-morning.
  • The country's seismological service said a tsunami on the Oaxaca coast was ongoing, with the sea level having risen 60 centimeters (2 feet) at Huatulco beach, a popular destination for U.S. and Canadian tourists.
People react during an earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico June 23, 2020.
Tomas Bravo | Reuters

A powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.4 struck the coast of southern Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least one person, buckling paved roads, and setting off a tsunami in nearby Pacific coastal areas.

One person died in the state of Oaxaca, Governor Alejandro Murat said, after the quake hit the Pacific coastal state mid-morning.

The country's seismological service said a tsunami on the Oaxaca coast was ongoing, with the sea level having risen 60 centimeters (2 feet) at Huatulco beach, a popular destination for U.S. and Canadian tourists.

People get to the streets in Mexico City following a quake on June 23, 2020 amid the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic.
Claudio Cruz | Getty Images

Mexico's civil protection agency recommended that residents move away from the coastline. Videos on social media showed the ocean's water receding in Oaxaca, a mountainous state that is also home to coffee plantations and Spanish colonial architecture.

Miguel Candelaria, 30, was working at his computer in his family home in the Oaxaca town of Juchitan when the ground began to tremble. He ran outside with relatives, but they had to stop in the middle of the street as the pavement buckled and rocked.

"We couldn't walk... the street was like chewing gum," said Candelaria, 30.

Neighbors screamed in terror and some shouted out warnings to run from the electricity poles that looked poised to fall, said Candelaria, who works in telecommunications marketing.

Quakes of magnitudes over 7 are major earthquakes capable of widespread, heavy damage. A 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck central Mexico in 2017 killed 355 people in the capital and the surrounding states.

Tuesday's quake set off a tsunami warning for the Pacific coasts of Mexico and Central and South America. Waves of up to one meter (3.28 ft) were possible on the Mexican coast, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned.

Buildings shook in Mexico City, hundreds of miles away.

Helicopters flew low over the Roma and Condesa districts of the capital, apparently looking for damage in streets where many buildings still show the scars of the 2017 quake. The city's public security ministry said a flyover showed "there are no fallen buildings."

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of Tuesday's quake was located 69 km (43 miles) northeast of the town of Pochutla.

It was very shallow, only 26 km (16 miles) below the earth's surface, which would have amplified the shaking.