Major Mexico earthquake causes damage, one death

A 7.1-magnitude earthquake that struck near Mexico’s Pacific resort city of Acapulco left at least one person dead and damaged hospitals, homes, shops and hotels, authorities said Wednesday.

More than 200 aftershocks were recorded after the powerful tremor, whose epicenter was 11 kilometers (seven miles) southeast of Acapulco in Guerrero state, the National Seismological Service reported.

The earthquake, which hit on Tuesday evening, shook buildings in the capital Mexico City several hundred kilometers away.

One person was killed by a falling pole in the city of Coyuca de Benitez in Guerrero, authorities said.

The government offices in Guerrero suffered structural damage and broken windows, along with other public and private buildings, the state’s governor, Hector Astudillo, said.

Only minor damage was reported in other parts of the country, including in the earthquake-prone capital, which is built on a former lake bed.

“We know that there was no serious damage in Puebla, in Oaxaca, in Morelos, here in Mexico City,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said at his daily news conference.

– ‘Nervous breakdowns’ –

Flights resumed from Acapulco airport, although initially only for private planes.

Utility poles and other debris fell on a number of vehicles in the city, and the facade of a church collapsed, according to an AFP correspondent.

Tourists evacuated hotels as a series of aftershocks, including several of magnitude 4 or above, rattled nerves.

“I was taking a bath and suddenly I felt a very strong movement, and then I was scared and screamed,” said a tourist from Mexico City who fled outside in only a bath towel.

“I came with my mom and we’re on the 11th floor of the hotel,” he said, hugging his 86-year-old mother, who was crying.

Acapulco Mayor Adela Roman said that the tremor sparked “nervous breakdowns” in the city.

“Yesterday we suffered fear and panic,” she told Milenio television.

“However, we were able to visit many places in Acapulco. We were visiting the places where it was said that there were problems of gas leaks,” Roman added.

Several hospitals suffered structural damage, although experts were still assessing the gravity, she said.

Authorities in Acapulco had opened sports centers for people to sleep in if they were afraid to go home.

Workers cleared fallen rocks from roads in the city.

– ‘Very scared’ –

The earthquake was felt strongly in Mexico City, sending residents and tourists spilling into the streets from homes and hotels.

“I’m very scared. I don’t know if I’ll sleep tonight. I’m worried about my daughter. I woke her up to take her outside and I didn’t even put my shoes on,” said 49-year-old resident Laura Villa. 

There were no immediate reports of serious damage in the capital, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said on Twitter.

Flashes of light were seen in the sky above the capital during the earthquake, which hit at a time when Mexico is facing a third wave of Covid-19 infections as well as severe flooding in some areas.

Bordered by the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Mexico is one of the most seismically active places in the world, sitting atop five tectonic plates including three major ones.

On September 19, 1985 an 8.1-magnitude quake in Mexico City killed more than 10,000 people and destroyed hundreds of buildings.

On the anniversary of that earthquake in 2017, a 7.1 quake left around 370 people dead, mainly in the capital.

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