The 7.1 magnitude earthquake has reportedly killed more than 100 people and caused serious damage to buildings in Mexico City, spreading panic.
Emergency crews and ordinary people were digging with bare hards through rubble in search of survivors after a powerful earthquake stuck central Mexico on Tuesday, toppling dozens of buildings and killing at least 119 people.
The magnitude 7.1 quake, the deadliest to hit the nation since 1985, struck shortly after 1pm local time, causing violent, prolonged shaking which flattened buildings and sent masonry tumbling onto streets, crushing cars and people in the capital Mexico City and surrounding areas.
As night fell across the region rescuers, people armed with cutting equipment and sniffer dogs scrambled to reach survivors trapped in ruins of offices and apartment blocks amid plumes of dust and wailing sirens. Power blackouts left much of the capital in darkness. Many people remained outdoors, fearful of aftershocks.
It was the second major temblor to hit Mexico in two weeks and came on the anniversary of the 1985 quake that devastated Mexico City.
“The building swayed like a hammock,” said Guillermo Salazar, a construction foreman whose crew was working on a half-finished apartment block. Everyone escaped unscathed thanks in part to an earthquake drill held two hours earlier, said Salazar. “It was helpful. Everyone knew what to do.”
“I thought that I had punctured a tire. Then I saw all the light fixtures and signs swaying,” said Humberto Muñoz, who was driving from Puebla into Mexico City when the quake struck.
Peiby Ballau, a hairdresser, said it felt worse even than the 8.1 magnitude quake which hit further south on 7 September, killing at least 98 people and leaving 2.5 million in need of help. “The building really moved back and forth. Of all the earthquakes I’ve lived through, this was the strongest. You never get used to this. It was such a fright.”
Some 27 buildings collapsed in Mexico City, said president Enrique Peña Nieto. He cut short a visit to the southern state of Oaxaca, which had been badly hit in the earlier quake.
The US president, Donald Trump, criticised for a perceived tardy response to the earlier disaster, responded on Tuesday within minutes, tweeting: “God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you.”
Gala Dluzhynska was on the second floor of a building on Alvaro Obregón street in the capital when the building began to totter. She said she fell over in the stair well and people began to walk over her, before someone finally pulled her up. “There were no stairs anymore. There were rocks,” she told the Associated Press.
Mariana Morales, a 26-year-old nutritionist, said she was in a taxi when the quake struck and witnessed a building collapse a few yards away. earthquake that devastated central Mexico. “There was the sound of thunder … then dust and all this.” She joined the throngs of citizens who spontaneously joined rescue efforts, bolstering emergency crews. “The people are organising quickly,” she said.
Along Insurgentes Avenue – one of the city’s main thoroughfares – thousands of people streamed out of buildings in panic as alarms blared.
Much of Mexico City is built on former lake bed and the soil is known to amplify the effects of earthquakes even hundreds of miles away.
Improved safety laws and better disaster preparation means that earthquakes since 1985 have caused less damage in the capital. But Tuesday’s quake struck without warning, despite an alert mechanism which normally sounds an alert beforehand.