Mexico earthquake: deaths as 7.5-magnitude tremor hits Oaxaca state

image: nytimes


A 7.5-magnitude earthquake has rattled large swaths of southern and central Mexico, killing at least five people.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said one person was killed in a building collapse in Huatulco, Oaxaca, while state governor Alejandro Murat said a second person was killed in an apparent house collapse in the mountain village of San Juan Ozolotepec and a third died in circumstances he did not explain.

Federal civil defence authorities reported two more deaths: a worker at the state-run oil company, Pemex, fell to his death from a refinery structure, and a man died in the Oaxaca village of San Agustin Amatengo when a wall fell on him.

Pemex also said the quake caused a fire at its refinery in the Pacific coast city of Salina Cruz, relatively near the epicenter. It said one worker was injured but the flames were quickly extinguished. Churches, bridges and highways also suffered damage during the quake.

López Obrador said there had been more than 140 aftershocks, most of them small.

Mexico’s national seismological service said the quake struck the southern state of Oaxaca at 10.29am local time (1429 BST) on Tuesday but was felt more than 400 miles away in the capital, Mexico City, where buildings shook and panicked residents fled on to the streets.

“It really moved,” said Francisco Aceves, the owner of an import-export firm in Mexico City who was on the 22nd floor of an office block when the quake struck.


Mexican newspapers said there were no immediate reports of damage in the capital, where memories of a 2017 earthquake that felled buildings and killed more than 300 people are still fresh.

“So far no major damage has been reported - just the collapse of a few walls and building fronts,” Claudia Sheinbaum, the city’s mayor, said in a video from Mexico City’s emergency response centre.

Richard Hanson, a 44-year-old American who runs an NGO in Oaxaca’s state capital called Tejiendo Alianzas, said: “It started really slow ... and then very quickly it notched up very fast.”

“Our fan was moving around a lot, you could hear the noise of the walls and the earth moving, things stared falling off the shelves in the kitchen and crashing and breaking on the ground.”

Outside Hanson said “people were running out of buildings, screaming and getting on the ground … Some people were just running to any open space.”


Photographs from the state capital showed rubble strewn streets and the partially collapsed facade of one historic building.

The earthquake’s epicentre was just east of Huatulco, one of Mexico’s top tourist destinations, where beaches had only just reopened last week after closing because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reuters said Tuesday’s quake set off a tsunami warning for a radius of 1,000km (621 miles) on the Pacific coasts of Mexico and Central America, including Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Murat told Milenio Televisión the quake had triggered landslides, cut off road links between some towns and damaged some buildings, including one hospital that had been treating Covid-19 patients. Murat said the sick were being moved elsewhere. But no major buildings in the state capital appeared to have been severely damaged.
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