Last updated: September 11, 2017 at 07:56 am
At least 60 people are dead after the most powerful earthquake to hit Mexico in over eight decades tore through buildings and forced mass evacuations in the poor southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas.
The 8.1 magnitude quake off the southern coast late on Thursday was stronger than a devastating 1985 temblor that flattened swathes of Mexico City and killed thousands.
The tremor rattled Mexico City and shook Guatemala and El Salvador, but the Oaxacan town of Juchitan bore the brunt of the disaster, with sections of the town hall, a hotel, a church, a bar and other buildings reduced to rubble.
President Enrique Pena Nieto flew to the battered town to oversee rescue efforts. The town’s mayor, Gloria Sanchez, called it ‘the most terrible moment’ in Juchitan’s history.
Facades of shattered buildings, fallen tiles and broken glass from shop fronts and banks littered the pavements of Juchitan while heavily armed soldiers patrolled and stood guard at areas cordoned off due to the extent of the damage.
All the deaths were in three neighbouring states clustered near the epicentre that lay about 70km off the coast.
At least 45 people died in Oaxaca, many of them in Juchitan, while in Chiapas the count reached 12 and in Tabasco four people lost their lives, according to federal and state officials.
In Chiapas, home to many of Mexico’s indigenous ethnic groups, thousands of people in coastal areas were evacuated as a precaution when the quake sparked tsunami warnings, but only two-foot waves were produced by the quake.
At least 250 people in Oaxaca were also injured, according to agriculture minister Jose Calzada.
Classes were suspended in much of central and southern Mexico on Friday to allow authorities to assess the impact. Dozens of schools were damaged, officials said.
People ran into the streets in Mexico City, one of the world’s largest metropolises and home to more than 20 million, and alarms sounded after the quake struck just before midnight.