- Magnitude 8.2?earthquake hits off Mexico
- Tsunami waves of 3.3 feet measured ?
- At least five dead, including two children
- Frightened Mexico City residents gather in streets
- Blackouts in capital
A?rare and powerful 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck southern Mexico late Thursday, killing at least five people as seismologists warned of a tsunami of more than 10 feet.
The quake hit offshore in the Pacific about 75 miles?southwest of the town of Tres Picos in far southern Chiapas state, the US Geological Survey said, putting the magnitude at 8.1.
Mexico’s president said the?earthquake magnitude was 8.2, the strongest in a century in the country. The country’s seismologic service?initially gave a magnitude of 8.4, which if confirmed would be the most powerful ever recorded in this quake-prone country.
The quake shook a large swath of the country and was felt as far north as Mexico City – 600 miles from the quake epicenter – where people ran out of their homes in their pajamas as buildings trembled and swayed.
A tsunami warning and the prospect of aftershocks kept the nation on alert.
“Based on all available data … widespread hazardous tsunami waves are forecast for some coasts,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.
“Tsunami waves reaching more than three meters above the tide level are possible along the coasts of Mexico,” it said, with lower waves in other countries.
The tsunami warning was for the coasts of Mexico, down through Central America into Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Honduras, and as far south as Ecuador.
The quake was felt in much of Guatemala, which borders Chiapas.
President Enrique Pena Nieto ordered schools to remain closed Friday in Chiapas and Mexico City so officials could inspect for structural damage.
He said on Twitter he was overseeing the emergency response from the National Disaster Prevention Center’s headquarters.
In Mexico City, people ran out of buildings after hearing earthquake warning sirens go off just before midnight (6am UK time Friday).
The quake struck at a depth of 21 miles, the USGS said.
It is the strongest to hit quake-prone Mexico at least since 1985, when an 8.1-magnitude earthquake in Mexico City killed more than 10,000 people.
The authorities have since instituted a stricter building code and developed an earthquake alert system using sensors placed on the coasts.
Mexico sits atop five tectonic plates, whose movement makes it one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world.
More updates to follow.
School and university classes suspended
The Mexican Education Secretary Aurelio Nuno?has been tweeting, saying that nurseries, schools and universities in the states of Tabasco, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Edomex, Puebla, Hidalgo, Morelos and even as far away as Veracruz, on the gulf of Mexico will see classes suspended today.
In a statement, Mr Nuno said that the measure had been taken to “guarantee the safety of students, teachers, administrative personnel and families.”
Buildings in Oaxaca reduced to rubble
Some of the worst initial reports of the earthquake came from Juchitan in Oaxaca state, where sections of the town hall, a hotel, a bar and other buildings were reduced to rubble.
Rescue workers labored through the night in badly affected areas to check for people trapped in collapsed buildings.
More information about Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest state
Chiapas is Mexico’s southernmost state and also its poorest. Chiapas has the highest poverty rate in the country – standing at 74.7 per cent according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) in 2014 – and the median income is less than half the national average.
Made up of a great mix of indiginous communities, speaking different Mayan languages, its three?million inhabitants rely mainly ?on tourism for its modest income.
Despite heavy investment in infrastructure, the population has not been lifted out of poverty.
The state has mountainous highlands and thick rainforest in the south, where it borders Guatemala. There are numerous Mayan ruins in Chiapas including the UNESCO world heritage site of Palenque – where there was a pre-hispanic city.
The state capital Tuxtla Gutierrez welcomed Pope Francis in February last year and he celebrated mass with indiginous locals, speaking in Spanish as well as saying prayers in three native languages.
The state is no stranger to earthquakes, with warning systems in place and alerts on public radio, but there has not been an earthquake of this size in the last century, according to President Enrique Pena Nieto.
Recently there has been a tourism drive, with a promotional video for the state garnering more than 1,000 retweets from the President’s account.
‘Strongest earthquake in a century’ for Mexico
Mexico’s president says earthquake magnitude was 8.2, the strongest in a century in the country.
Dozens of aftershocks
James Badcock?writes that local media is reporting that schools will?remain closed today in many southern and central states of Mexico.
The National Seismology Service said that in the two hours following the initial earthquake, there were?61 aftershocks up to a magnitude of 6.1.
President Enrique Pe?a Nieto has asked people not to panic, and the government is warning against the spreading of unofficial rumours.
Mr Pe?a Nieto said that 1.5 million people had lost their electricity supply immediately after the earthquake, but that half of these had now had power restored.
He said that aftershocks of up to 7.0 on the Richter scale were still possible.
Tsunami waves of 3.3 feet measured
Tsunami waves have been measured off Mexico’s Pacific coast.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says waves of 1 metre?(3.3 feet) above the tide level were measured off Salina Cruz. Smaller tsunami waves were observed on the coast or measured by ocean gauges in several other places.
The center’s forecast said Ecuador, El Salvador and Guatemala could see waves of a metre or less.
No threat was posed to Hawaii and the western and South Pacific.
Five dead, including two children
The death toll in Mexico has risen to at least five people, including two children in Tabasco state.
Tabasco Governor?Arturo Nunez said that one of the children died when a wall collapsed, and the other was a baby who died in a children’s hospital that lost electricity, cutting off the supply to the infant’s ventilator.
The other three deaths were in Chiapas state, in San Cristobal de las Casas.
The governor of Chiapas says that at least three people have been killed in his region.
Gov. Manuel Velasco told Milenio TV that the deaths occurred in San Cristobal de las Casas.
He also said that the quake damaged hospitals and schools:
“There are damages in hospitals that have lost energy. Homes, schools and hospitals have been affected.”
Guatemala president calls for calm
In neighbouring Guatemala, President Jimmy Morales spoke on national television to call for calm while emergency crews checked for damage. Local radio in the Central American country reported one death, but it could not be confirmed.
“We have reports of some damage and the death of one person, even though we still don’t have exact details,” Morales said.
He said the possible death occurred in San Marcos state near the border with?Mexico.
‘The house moved like chewing gum’
Rodrigo Soberanes, who lives near San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, a poor largely indigenous state popular with tourists, described the moment the quake struck.
“The house moved like chewing gum and the light and internet went out momentarily.”
Civil Defence in Chiapas said on its Twitter account that its personnel were in the streets aiding people and warned residents to prepare for aftershocks. But it made no immediate comment about damage.
‘It felt horrible’
In one central neighbourhood, 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 pyjamas.
“It felt horrible, and I thought, ‘this is going to fall’.”
‘I nearly fell over’
Residents in Mexico City are describing the moment when the quake struck.
Luis Carlos Briceno, an architect, 31, who was visiting?Mexico?City, said:
“I had never been anywhere where the earth moved so much. At first I laughed, but when the lights went out I didn’t know what to do. I nearly fell over.”
Countries under tsunami threat
The U.S. Tsunami Warning System said the earthquake was a potential tsunami threat to several Central American countries, including the Pacific coastlines of Guatemala, Honduras,?Mexico, El Salvador and Costa Rica.
It said the threat was still being evaluated for Hawaii, Guam and other Pacific islands.
People fled to streets
People in?Mexico?City ran out into the streets after the quake struck, a Reuters witness said.
Its epicentre was 123 km (76 miles) southwest of the town of Pijijiapan, at a depth of 33 km (21 miles). Widespread, hazardous tsunami waves were possible, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said.