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A powerful earthquake shakes southern Mexico, killing at least five people


MEXICO CITY A powerful earthquake near the southern Mexican resort of Huatulco killed at least five people, hit buildings in the City of Mexico and sent thousands fleeing the streets.

State Governor Oaxaca Alejandro Murat said a 22-year-old woman and a man were among the dead.

Mexican President Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador said one person was killed and another was injured in a building collapse in Huatulco, Oaxaca. Otherwise he said the reports were less severely damaged by the 7.4 magnitude earthquake, including broken windows and collapsed walls. Oaxaca government Alejandro Murat later said a second person was killed in a notable house collapse in the small mountain village of San Juan Ozolotepec.

The state-owned oil company known as Pemex said the quake triggered a fire at its refinery in the Pacific coastal city of Salina Cruz, relatively close to the epicenter. He also said a worker fell from a refinery structure at his death.

Lpez Obrador said there had been more than 140 after the crash, most of them small.

The seismic alarm seemed midnight with enough warning for residents to leave the buildings. Power collapsed in some areas.

Helicopters flew over the center of Mexico City and police patrols appeared their sirens.

Groups of people still gathered near the streets and sidewalks in some neighborhoods of the capital about an hour after the quake. Many did not wear masks, despite past calls from municipal officials for them to do so as a way to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

Within a Mexican military barracks, turned into the COVID-19 hospital, the appropriate medical staff at the protective equipment tried to calm the anxious patients. Unable to evacuate the isolation areas, patients rallied under a large beam in the women’s ward as a nurse tried to calm one down by having a panic attack.

Teresa Jurez could wish she could get out of her hospital bed quickly, where she was lying on oxygen. Diabetic and with high blood pressure, Jurez said she thought about her five children. It’s awful, you’re here and you don’t know what to do, she said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck at 10:29 a.m. (11:29 a.m. East) along the southern Pacific coast of Mexico at a depth of 16 miles (26 km). The epicenter was reported 7 miles (12 km) southwest of Santa Maria Zapotitlan in Oaxaca.

It was felt in Guatemala and throughout the south and central Mexico.

In Huatulco, a neglected beach destination known for surfing and small protected harbors, the earthquake knocked down goods from shelves and some rubble from buildings.

Marie Gonzlez of the Princess Mayev Hotel in Huatulco said staff and guests were able to evacuate the building before the quake, but that 45 minutes after the initial quake they were still outside as strong earthquakes continued.

It was strong, very strong, she said.

Gonzlez said there were some visible broken glasses and mirrors, but no major damage. Staff were waiting for the earthquake to break down before fully assessing the property.

Local news media reported damage to several buildings in the state capital, Oaxaca. State officials said they were seeking damages.

The USGS estimated that about 2 million people felt strong or moderate in vibration and another 49 million felt weak or shaky.

The quake struck a region affected by the quake, which brought together four underground tectonic plates. In the past 35 years, there have been at least seven magnitude 7 or larger earthquakes, killing about 10,000 people, most of them in a 1985-1985 earthquake.

This has the potential to be a deadly earthquake and cause significant damage, said US geological survey seismologist Paul Earle. This area is capable and has had major earthquakes in the past.

There will be earthquakes, Earle said. It is not surprising to see a size 6 at this point and a smaller number.

The quake struck when Coco’s plate, which is in the southwest of the area, fell on the North American plate, Earle said.

You have all kinds of tiles and they are moving fast, Earle said. The important thing is how fast the tiles move relative to each other.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a threat to the tsunami with waves three to 10 feet above the level of the wave, along parts of Mexico’s shores. Smaller waves were expected across Central America, Peru, and Ecuador.

Guatemala’s national disaster agency issued a tsunami alert for its southern Pacific coast predicting the arrival of waves up to a meter high. He advised people to leave the sea.

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Associated Press writers Chris Torchia in Mexico City and Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to the report.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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