UPDATE | Death toll rises to 35 in powerful Mexico earthquake
MEXICO CITY (AP) — One of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded in Mexico struck off the country's southern coast, toppling hundreds of buildings, triggering tsunami evacuations and sending panicked people fleeing into the streets in the middle of the night.
At least 35 people were reported killed.
The quake that hit minutes before midnight Thursday was strong enough to cause buildings to sway violently in the capital city more than 650 miles away. As beds banged against walls, people still wearing pajamas ran out of their homes and gathered in frightened groups.
Rodrigo Soberanes, who lives near San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, the state nearest the epicenter, said his house "moved like chewing gum."
The furious shaking created a second national emergency for Mexican agencies already bracing for Hurricane Katia on the other side of the country. The system was expected to strike the Gulf coast in the state of Veracruz early Saturday as a Category 2 storm that could bring life-threatening floods.
The worst-hit city appeared to be Juchitan, on the narrow waist of Oaxaca known as the Isthmus. About half of the city hall collapsed in a pile of rubble and streets were littered with the debris of ruined houses. Local officials said at least 17 of the 35 dead were in Juchitan.
Mexico's capital escaped major damage, but the quake terrified sleeping residents, many of whom still remember the catastrophic 1985 earthquake that killed thousands and devastated large parts of the city.
The U.S. Geological Survey recorded at least 20 aftershocks of magnitude 4.0 or greater within about five hours after the main shake, and the president warned that a major aftershock as large as magnitude 7.2 could occur.
The USGS said the quake struck at 11:49 p.m. Thursday (12:49 a.m. EDT ; 0449 GMT today) and its epicenter was 102 miles west of Tapachula in Chiapas. It had a depth of 43.3 miles.