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Fatal Quake Strikes Southern Mexico, Triggering Series of Tsunamis -- 13th Update

8 Sep 2017 9:28 am
By David Luhnow 

MEXICO CITY--A powerful 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck southern Mexico late Thursday, killing at least six people, damaging scores of homes and roads and setting off a series of small tsunamis.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake had a magnitude of 8.1 and its epicenter was 103 miles west of Tapachula in southern Chiapas state. Five minor aftershocks were felt.

The quake rattled the faraway capital of Mexico City, sending scared residents scurrying into the streets, some clad in their pajamas.

At least four people were killed in Chiapas, according to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and state governor, Manuel Velasco, in addition to two in Tabasco state.

Jimmy Morales, the president of Guatemala, said there was an unconfirmed report of a death there.

Mr. Peña Nieto said the quake was 8.2 and was the largest to hit Mexico in a century. Mexico's National Seismological Center registered the quake as slightly larger--at 8.4 magnitude.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said tsunami waves of 3.3 feet had been seen off the coast of Oaxaca that could push tides about 10 feet above the normal tide line. Ecuador, El Salvador and Guatemala might see smaller waves, the center said.

Some towns along the coast of Oaxaca were evacuated, including the resort of Mazunte, resident Claudia Fuentes said. The higher tide wasn't expected to cause problems along the mountainous Mexican coast, which rises fairly steeply from the sea.

The quake was the largest to hit Mexico since 1985, when an 8.1-magnitude quake and a powerful aftershock caused widespread damage and killed 5,000 people in Mexico City.

"This new quake was much further away from the capital and was deeper," said Randy Baldwin, a geophyicist at the U.S. National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Co.

The 1985 quake was very close to the shore and was just 17 miles below the surface, compared to a depth of about 43 miles in the latest quake.

Video images of Thursday's quake showed lightposts on Mexico City highways shaking violently and the city's fabled Independence Monument swaying in the sky. Electricity was knocked out in large parts of the city.

"This was a terrible experience. As we tried to leave our building, I felt I was about to die," said Laura Martinez, a schoolteacher.

Images on Twitter showed major damage to several buildings in Oaxaca state, including what appeared to a small hotel that had collapsed as well as the partial collapse of several buildings in Juchitan.

Schools were suspended Friday in Mexico City and in 11 states across the southern and central part of the country.

Earthquakes are common along Mexico's Pacific coast. In this case, the tremor was caused by the convergence of the Cocos and North American plates. The Cocos plate dives beneath the North American plate at a rate of about three inches a year, according to geophysicist Mr. Baldwin.

Santiago Perez

and Juan Montes in Mexico City contributed to this article.

Write to David Luhnow at david.luhnow@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 08, 2017 05:28 ET (09:28 GMT)
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