A strong earthquake hit southern Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least one person, buckling paved roads, and sending people fleeing their homes into the streets.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake’s magnitude was 7.4, revised down from an earlier estimate of 7.7. The earthquake was centred in the Pacific coastal state of Oaxaca where one person died, Gov. Alejandro Murat said.
He told the Televisa network that one person was also injured in a building collapse in Crucecita, part of Huatulco. He did not provide details. Otherwise most reports were of minor damage, he said.
The country’s seismological service said a tsunami on the Oaxaca coast was ongoing, with the sea level having risen 60 centimetres at Huatulco beach, a popular destination for U.S. and Canadian tourists.
Mexico’s civil protection agency recommended that residents move away from the coastline. Videos on social media showed the ocean’s water receding in Oaxaca, a mountainous state that is home to coffee plantations, beach resorts, and Spanish colonial architecture.
“We couldn’t walk… the street was like chewing gum,” said Miguel Candelaria, 30, who was working at his computer in his family home in the Oaxaca town of Juchitan when the ground began to tremble.
He said he ran outside with relatives, but they had to stop in the middle of the street as the pavement buckled and rocked.
Neighbours screamed in terror and some shouted out warnings to run from electricity poles that looked poised to fall, said Candelaria, who works in telecommunications marketing.
Tuesday’s quake set off a tsunami warning for the Pacific coasts of Mexico and Central and South America. Waves of up to one metre were possible on the Mexican coast, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned.
Reuters witnesses in Mexico City saw no initial signs of injuries or damage. The capital’s public security ministry said a flyover showed “there are no fallen buildings.”
Quakes of such size can be devastating. A 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck central Mexico in 2017 killed 355 people in the capital and the surrounding states.
Helicopters flew low over the Roma and Condesa districts of the capital, apparently looking for damage in streets where many buildings still show the scars of the 2017 quake. The city’s public security ministry said a flyover showed “there are no fallen buildings.”
The USGS said the epicentre of Tuesday’s quake was located 69 kilometres northeast of the town of Pochutla. It was very shallow, only 26 kilometres below the earth’s surface, which would have amplified the shaking.
Mari Gonzalez 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 aftershocks continued.
“It was strong, very strong,” she said.
Gonzalez said there was some visible broken glass and mirrors, but no major damage. The staff was waiting for the aftershocks to dissipate before fully evaluating the property.
Situated at the intersection of three tectonic plates, Mexico is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries. The capital is seen as particularly vulnerable due to its location on top of an ancient lake bed.