Strong Earthquake Hits Off Mexico’s Coast – New York Times

The quake also rocked the city’s landmark Angel of Independence monument.

A glass door shattered at Mexico City’s airport, and there were reports of tumbling walls. Helicopters circled over the city to assess damage, but there were no immediate reports of casualties in the city. A hotel in the Pacific state of Oaxaca was evacuated. The ceiling of a shopping mall in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the capital of Chiapas State, collapsed, littering the floor with debris.

Five aftershocks with a preliminary magnitude 4.9 or stronger hit in the hour following the initial quake, the United States Geological Survey said. A tsunami with the largest wave measuring less than 4 feet was recorded on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

Rudy Gomez, 28, who lives in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City, talked to his family in Chiapas by phone after the quake.

“After the earthquake, there were three more,” he said of the aftershocks in Chiapas.

“They are just waiting to see if there is another one to come, but right now they are O.K.,” he added.

The governor of Chiapas, Manuel Velasco, said that two women had been killed in the city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas by collapsing houses and walls.

President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala asked for calm as a tsunami warning was issued.

The earthquake struck mainly in the west of Guatemala. In the state capital of Huehuetenango, bricks and glass were strewn on the ground as walls collapsed. Quetzaltenango, Guatemala’s second-largest city, which was beginning to recover from a tremor in June, suffered more damage to its historic center.

Arturo Núñez, governor of the state of Tabasco in Mexico, said two children had died. One was killed by a falling wall. The other was a child who was on a ventilator in a hospital that lost power.

Mexico City is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes that strike off the coast because the city is built atop an old lake bed that can magnify seismic waves from hundreds of miles away. In September 1985, an earthquake off the coast of Michoacán State killed as many as 10,000 people and flattened 400 buildings. That quake, which occurred more than 200 miles from the capital, measured magnitude 8.

Mexico City residents are usually deliberate and calm about evacuating buildings and waiting in the streets until the shaking ends.

This earthquake, though, frightened even the stoics. On Twitter, some Chilangos — as Mexico City residents are known — said it was the second-strongest quake they had ever experienced, after the devastating 1985 earthquake.

The epicenters for most of the earthquakes that trouble the city are along Mexico’s Pacific Coast. As undersea plates grind into the continent, they send shock waves north to Mexico City.

After the 1985 disaster, the construction codes were reviewed and stiffened, to the extent that Mexico’s construction laws, written to ensure that buildings can withstand earthquakes, are as strict today as those in the United States or Japan.

“The scariest part of it all is that if you are an adult and you’ve lived in this city your adult life, you remember 1985 very vividly. This felt as strong and as bad, but from what I see, we’ve been spared from major tragedy,” said Alberto Briseño, a 58-year-old bar manager in Condesa.

“Now we will do what us Mexicans do so well: Take the bitter taste of this night and move on.”


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