Mexico City, Sep 20 At least 119 people were killed in a powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico on Tuesday, officials said.
Mayor Miguel Angel Ancera said that 30 people died in the capital city, where 50,000 first responders were searching for people feared trapped amid the rubble of 44 buildings that were toppled by the temblor, Efe news reported.
The epicentre of the earthquake, was located 12 km southeast of Axochiapan, a city in the central state of Morelos, at a depth of 57 km.
Most of the confirmed fatalities — 54 — were in Morelos, while the government of neighbouring Mexico state reported eight persons killed and 22 others injured.
At least 26 people were killed in Puebla state, which also borders Morelos.
The state government secretary in Morelos, Matias Quiroz, told Milenio Television that the collapse of a bridge forced the shutdown of a stretch of the major highway linking Mexico City with the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco.
Schools in Morelos appeared to have escaped major damage and authorities were still in the process of evaluating the condition of the state’s hospitals, Quiroz said.
Television stations in Mexico City has broadcast images of partially destroyed buildings in the centrally located Condesa, Roma and Del Valle districts, as well as footage of fires burning around the capital.
The temblor sent frightened residents streaming out of buildings and into the streets on the 32nd anniversary of the quake that killed thousands of people in the capital.
“It was awful, I felt it much more than the one the other day (Sept. 7),” Ana Bofill, a Spanish citizen preparing to return home on Tuesday, told EFE.
Jonathan Barbosa, a Colombian living in Mexico City, said he was surprised by the temblor’s power.
“I have never experienced a quake like this, and I thought it was going to be quick and very smooth. The building rocked a lot, I thought it was going to collapse,” Barbosa told EFE.
President Enrique Peï¿½a Nieto said he was returning to Mexico City from Oaxaca state.
“PlanMX has been activated,” the President said in a Twitter post, adding that he was returning “immediately to Mexico City to deal with the situation caused by the earthquake.”
On September 7, a magnitude-8.2 earthquake affected 2.3 million people in Chiapas and Oaxaca states, killing at least 98 people.
The quake was the most powerful to hit Mexico since 1932.
Tuesday’s earthquake hit the capital as residents marked the 32nd anniversary of a powerful temblor that devastated Mexico City.
The magnitude-8.1 earthquake that hit Mexico City on September 19, 1985, was the most destructive to ever hit Mexico, killing some 10,000 people, injuring more than 40,000 others and leaving 80,000 people homeless.
In 2015, Mexico City’s government installed a warning system, which uses 8,200 loudspeakers located across the capital’s 16 boroughs, to alert residents to an earthquake.
The Seismic Warning System gives Mexico City residents a 50-second alert to prevent a repetition of the tragedy that occurred 32 years ago.
The warning is generated by sensors along the Pacific coast, located about 400 km from the capital, giving residents time to get out of buildings that could collapse in a temblor.
Mexico, one of the countries with the highest levels of seismic activity in the world, sits on the North American tectonic plate and is surrounded by three other plates in the Pacific: the Rivera microplate, at the mouth of the Gulf of California; the Pacific plate; and the Cocos plate.
The Cocos tectonic plate stretches from Colima state south and has the potential to cause the most damage since it affects Mexico City, which has a population of 20 million and was constructed over what was once Lake Texcoco.