A powerful 8.4-magnitude earthquake struck southern Mexico on 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 120 kilometers 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 seismologic service, however, gave a magnitude of 8.4, which if confirmed would be the most powerful ever recorded in this quake-prone country.
Five people were killed, said local officials and Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong.
In neighboring Tabasco state, two children were killed, the governor said. One was crushed by a collapsing wall. The other, an infant on a respirator, died after the power went out. A hotel collapsed and several houses were damaged in Juchitan, in the state of Oaxaca, but no fatalities were reported there.
The quake shook a large swath of the country and was felt as far north as Mexico City — 1,000 km from the quake epicentre — 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 Centre 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 on 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 Centre’s headquarters.
–AFP (This is a developing story and will be updated with regular intervals)